Interview with Rick Molcan: Director of Professional Development

Rick Molcan is an optician in British Columbia. He has worked as an optician in many other provinces including Manitoba and Alberta. He got his start in optics in Ontario. Currently, he works as the Director of Professional Development for IRIS.
We reached out to Rick to ask him his thoughts on the new continuing competency program, where he sees the future of education, and how the new changes will affect opticians.
Some of the key themes that Rick spoke about were the benefits that education has for opticians, the public, and increasing collaboration between the three O’s.
How did you get into the field of professional development?
Four individuals have been central to me moving my career forward in this direction. The first is Mr. Ron Phillip. He was an executive VP at IRIS for many years. He hired me when I started my career as an optician in Alberta. He encouraged many of my skills including critical thinking, public speaking and presenting.
The second is Dr. Ken Blanchard. He is a human dynamic specialist. He helped me form connections between education and practice. When I saw him at a live event, he said, “when you get home do something for your organization.” I went home and created my first training program.
The third is John Dijulius. He has written numerous books about how to deliver outstanding customer service and how to make price irrelevant. He’s a superstar individual. It’s not enough that we deliver technical superiority. Every customer is also swayed by the emotional context of what we do and don’t do. This is important in terms of quality of care, product, and delivery. You can’t put a price tag on the experience.
The fourth person is the founder of IRIS, DR. Francis Jean. His commitment to excellence and craft as an optometrist inspired me to be deeply dedicated to my craft as an optician. He encouraged me and supported me. He helped me shed a light on where I needed to go from a career standpoint. He allowed me opportunity and gave me the resources to succeed.
What is the most successful and effective education model?
I believe the most effective and successful model is the collaborative model; opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists working together for the benefit of the patient. What makes an optician indispensable within the three O’s? Opticians have a broad spectrum of knowledge. To maintain that broad knowledge base and capability of collaborating with other eye care professionals requires ongoing education.
I have been in this business for over 30 years. I can reflect back on the changes that have happened with opticians. What opticians are capable of doing and require doing to be successful, regardless of the business mode, is such a broad spectrum of understanding. We are expected by our patients to have this knowledge.
We live in an age where people can turn to Dr. Google. People can self medicate and self prescribe, and are doing just that today. People self prescribe by buying vision devices online. Opticians don’t have to know all the answers, but you have to know where to go to get the answers. The gap analysis within the new continuing competency program can help us get there. It sets a plan in motion for each optician to let them understand where they are and, more importantly, where they need to focus their attention.
What excites you and keeps you going every day?
What excites me is truly seeing the light bulb go on for an individual. Optics is deep; the more we know, the more questions we have. As an optician, you have to have a good knowledge base. There are many things opticians are required to know. Opticians help patients make critical choices and decisions with the products that their business has access to. There is also a standard of care that meets regulatory expectations. We are utilizing lots of equipment; we have to know what it all does, how it works and the ability to explain it to our patients and customers in language they understand.
To be an optician you have to be bright and get excited by the right and left-brain aspects of what we do on a day-to-day basis. We deal with form, function, and fashion. We’re dealing with people’s vision but also their emotional sensibility. So you have to ask yourself, what are the needs of the patient? Opticians have to be artistic and scientific. That’s what gets me excited. If you can’t be excited about that then you won’t be successful in this industry.
If a fellow optician were to ask you “what’s in it for me?” when referring to our new education program, how would you respond?
Everything! It’s your career, nobody else’s. What’s in it for you is wherever you want to take your career. What type of optician do you want to be?  There are a wide variety of choices for you.  
It gives you an opportunity to expand your scope of knowledge and that makes you more valuable, regardless of where you choose to take your career.
It’s a successful and challenging opportunity to learn about what you don’t know.
When you learn to do something new today that you couldn’t do, or weren’t aware of yesterday, that added learning increases your value.
The competency assessment can ensure that we are aware of what we know and what we don’t know. We can fill those gaps as well as expand our abilities through exploratory knowledge. We can discover things that we weren’t aware we weren’t aware of. It can also allow for more self study and provides access for those who live in rural or remote communities.
How do programs like continuing competency protect the public?
We need to let the public know how we are regulated and how we protect them as long as they chose someone who is regulated. A program like continuing competency allows opticians to embrace technological advances. If you deliver something that is highly educational and fun, then the patient is happier and there are less complaints.
If the opticians perceive themselves in a specialized and professional way then the public gets served in the best way. And we do our jobs, which is protecting the public.
Where do you see the future of education development?
I see opportunity for opticians in the future. Many companies provide educational portals so their opticians (or staff) are able to gain some knowledge. This in turn provides the optician with an appetite for learning.
The new continuing competency programs gives an opportunity for opticians to find out about things that we are passionate about, without knowing that we were passionate about them or sometimes without knowing that they even existed.
Opticians should recognize the value of our College and being able to embrace regulatory changes that are actually good for the profession.
To you, what is the value of professional development?
Nothing works better than professionalism for an optician, and education helps do that. We have to maintain professionalism in a changing landscape.
I have enjoyed being able to reinvent myself continually as a professional and as an optician. Is it challenging? Yes. Is it tough? Yes. Is it rewarding? Yes! I have been a technical optician, a relational optician. I have worked in store management, multi-store management, and now professional development. Each area has been filled with learning opportunities.
Thank you, Rick for taking the time to share your thoughts on the new continuing competency program. We invite those of you who have comments and questions to contact us