OWL Interview with Kim Bartels, VP of Operations at Vance Thompson Vision

Kim Bartels, VP of Operations at Vance Thompson Vision | OWL Champion Member

1. What inspired you to ‘Champion’ OWL? Has the organization met your expectations?

I was introduced to OWL during my first ASCRS meeting.  The organization was suggested to me by a friend of our practice, Candy Simerson. I have had the opportunity to meet fantastic professionals through this organization and I look forward to OWL events.
2. What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
I think the most important decisions I make are to ensure the team has the tools they need to do their job. As an organization, one of our pillars is to create a patient experience second to none. Without an employee experience second to none, that becomes impossible.  I feel it’s important to make decisions in conjunction with our team members that are in the trenches doing the work. They are the experts and know the work best.  One of my favorite parts of my role is working with the managers and their team.  Sometimes the best gift I can give is to listen.  The team knows how to do the work, they just need to talk through options and ideas.
3. As a senior leader, you are tasked with motivating your team, but what inspires you on a daily basis?
I think my motivation comes from the team of managers that I have the privilege of working with on a daily basis. They are all passionate about their work and teams.  They are a breath of fresh air for me everyday.  We have the full support of our doctor team in all of locations who support us and allow us to lead our teams.  
4. Vance Thompson Vision has become almost a phenomenon in ophthalmology; you have fostered a great culture, earned glowing reviews from patients, a perfect score on Glassdoor, and physicians who are driving innovation and lead with humility. As the VP of Operations, what is the secret or the magic formula for this success?
I believe the secret is that the doctors lead by example. The doctors have high expectations on how we care for our team and patients, however they give us everything we need to do so.
5. As the mega practice trend takes off, there can be a shift in culture and it can dampen the inspiration and focus. Any suggestions on how to implement a smoother integration or manage rapid growth?
We have had tremendous growth over the past 5 years.  Each location is special, but we all have the same values.  Communication is a challenge.  We need to constantly be in touch with each location on what is working and what is not? We are constantly sharing ideas and lessons learned. We continue to work on ways to better our communication. This has not always been easy, however we continue to improve!
6. Vance Thompson Vision has several fellowships, what advice do you have for young ophthalmologists or optometrists?
Yes, we have both an MD and OD fellowship program at VTV.  My advice is to learn from everyone in the practice, not just the doctors. The team who provides the care also has a lot to bring to the table for new doctors.  I feel like we treat the fellows in our practice as part of our work family.  Being open minded is a must as a fellow, to soak up as much as they can during their time.  They will be able to pull from that experience for years to come when they start or join their next practice.
7. What advice would you give your younger self – when you were just getting started in your career?
Oh if I could only turn back time! One of the biggest mistakes I made in my career was not taking the time to hear more than one point of view before I made a decision. The other thing I would do differently is create a better sense of balance in my personal life and work life.  I feel like I am better, not perfect, but better. I would set better boundaries for myself and others.