Attitude is Everything

How to Be a Better Assistant for Your Doctors

When we think of ways to be better techs, we usually try to learn a new skill or improve the ones we have. That is all well and good, but being a good tech is more than book smarts and tonometry.

Our attitudes and how we perform our work tasks are arguably just as important as being able to accurately manifest or take a reliable OCT. Being able to connect with patients and doctors takes a great deal of social skills, patience and composure that we can’t just study or practice on a fake eye with.

Personal enrichment, be it in the form of certification or soft skill development, is virtually guaranteed way to earn more respect from your physicians and colleagues. Work ethic, communication, problem solving and leadership are all things that drive our success and improving upon these skill sets helps you and everyone around you.

Work Ethic

A major attribute that doctors want their techs to possess is drive. Oculoplastic physician César Briceño, MD of the University of Pennsylvania believes that motivation is a key difference between a good tech and a great one.

Briceño states that “Technicians should be self-starters and have a lot of drive and initiative”. Ophthalmic assistants should be able to get their jobs done and manage the clinic without having to be told to do so, but this extends beyond our roles within the practice walls.

Professional certification, especially if your practice does not require it, is hugely beneficial. By becoming a certified assistant, technician or medical technologist, you let everyone know that you have the drive to better yourself in your profession. Additionally, physicians like having because it reassures patients that the assistant they are seeing knows what they are doing.


Being able to truthfully relay information to colleagues and physicians is important for continuous flow within the office. Relaying information that is pertinent to an exam or test helps prevent hiccups in a patient visit. Omitting info or covering up to prevent reprimanding can cause others to lose their trust in you— or worse— cause a patient safety issue. 

If you want your doctor to trust in you and your abilities, good communication is key. “Poor communication skills are detrimental to a good technician/attending relationship,” notes Briceño. “The relationship must be based on honestly and trust.”

Clearly and concisely speaking on a problem when warranted is highly beneficial– we all care about patient and clinic safety– but knowing the difference between being helpful and being excessive is important, too. While are definitely decisions that are outside of our scope as medical assistants, there are plenty of situations that are.   

Problem Solving

You can always count on problems occurring at the worst possible times. One small error can derail an entire day. 

Luckily, with trust and understanding of the physician you work for comes the ability to predict certain patterns. If a patient is over 30 minutes late, can you give the front desk receptionist the okay to check them in? Would you be able to schedule in an emergency add-on at an appropriate time on the schedule or do you think you’d mess up and delay the appointments for the rest of the day?

Problem solving is equal parts critical thinking and confidence. Once you make a decision, see it through and know that you’re liable for the outcome, whether good or bad. If you screw something up, taking responsibility may sting a little at first but you’ll retain more trust than if you were to lie about it or shift blame.


You don’t need to be a manager or physician to be a leader. Leadership takes a strong work ethic, communication skills and problem solving abilities to navigate yourself and others around the eyecare practice.

Leading doesn’t give you the liberty to tell everyone what to do. Knowing the extent of your authority while respecting the boundaries of others is going to yield the best results in and outside of work. Best case scenario, your coworkers are also working on bettering themselves, so keep this in mind when working with other leaders. 

In the event that you are the most senior or experienced on the floor, this still isn’t grounds for bossing people around. We’re all in this for our patients, not our egos. Being miserable and unfair isn’t helpful for anyone and is a great way to lose respect from everyone in your office. Bosses boss. Leaders lead. Knowing the difference is crucial.

• • •

Polishing up skills of any sort can only help you but focusing on these often neglected skills can help give you the edge needed to strengthen your relationship with your doctor. Yes, physicians want a staff that they can rely on for accurate testing and charting, but ultimately they want to have technicians that they can trust beyond visual acuities. 

Educating yourself and working toward being a better communicator helps build your doctors’ confidence in you. As much as we’d perhaps like to, we can’t make others feel one way or another about us; while we might not be able to force someone into loving us, we can certainly make ourselves easier to work with to start bridging that relationship gap. 

When the patient is happy, the doctor is happy. When you work toward making the clinic and flow run smoothly, you can please them both.

Kershner, R. “A Doctor’s Perspective on Staff Certification”. Ophthalmic Professional, vol. 4, no. March 2015, 1 Mar. 2015, pp. 24-25.

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