My second year is in full swing now and it’s everything everyone promised it would be AND MORE. The glamorous white coat ceremony in September and a round of midterms and proficiencies through October have taken me through quite the emotional roller coaster thus far and it’s only been 2 months! I’ve needed to dig up and revamp new study strategies and better meal plans! Let’s take a second and rewind to unwind…
For the majority of my classmates and myself, this first semester started out with so much excitement. We started taking new sets of classes that are more optometry centered and vision-related, we got our white coats, (FINALLY!!!) and I genuinely felt like the optometrist I knew I was born to be! My mom was able to make a trip out from California and I took her around to all the major Boston stomping grounds and everything was a grand ol’ time!
The White Coat Ceremony took place in September
At the White Coat Ceremony, President Scott explained, “When you get the white coat, it is a symbol to you and your loved ones that you have earned a higher level of respect in the professional world.” Being able to wear the white coat during our clinic rounds has been an awesome feeling! Although the reality is that many optometrists do not wear white coats in clinical practice, as a student, the coat is a rite of passage. At NECO, it means that you’ve successfully survived first year and are now ready to embark on a new part of your optometric journey with much more responsibility. For me, it made the whole process more “real.” As a first year, you interact with patients during school screenings, but a majority of your time is still spent in laboratory and lecture halls. As a second year, you have weekly 4-5 hour clerkships at various clinical sites where you truly get to interact with patients in an optometric setting. The coat helped signify that transition for me and I think over all we each gained more confidence in ourselves as future doctors.
Vixit and I are excited to wear our White Coats
Second year students begin their clinical clerkship program by working a minimum of 4 hours either in a hospital, clinic, or private practice. This semester I’m at New England Eye-Roslindale every Saturday, about a 30 minute commute from my house. Although it’s a battle every Saturday climbing out of the comforts of my blankets, clinic has truly been amazing. I have rotating preceptors which means I have more exposure to different doctors with different specialties and gain more networking opportunities as well. My schedule is also always busy and all of us at this site get our own exam room, meaning that from the very first day, I was thrust into the world of direct patient care. As a hands-on learner, this was by far the best thing that could’ve happened. Each time I go, I am challenged by not only the patients, but it is also a self-challenge to see how much my clinical skills have improved.
Being in clerkship this semester has made me 50x better at learning in the classroom. It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you are able to bridge lecture material, something you’ve only previously seen in pictures, with patients in the real world. Being able to recognize ocular abnormalities in a clinical setting gave me a far more thorough understanding of the topic compared to any amount of memorizing them as terms on a lecture slide.
Another great aspect of clerkship as a second year is the direct patient interaction. I recall speaking to a patient who had her first eye exam in 2013 even though she was well into her teens and definitely needed vision correction. Along with my preceptor, we were able to open the conversation with her parents and discuss the impact of vision on the patient’s daily life and how corrected vision could improve not only physiological development, but academic success as well. It was a great experience to help a patient move from ignoring necessary follow-up from an eye exam to understanding the impact of medical attention and choosing a pair of glasses . Too often, I get bogged down by the academics of everything while on campus and I forget what we’re training for and it’s these small moments in clinic that breathes fresh air into me and reminds me that this profession can be truly profound and that I am able to have an impact on someone’s life.
About a week after our white coat ceremony we were dragged back to Earth from cloud-nine for midterms. 6 exams in 8 days is never something anyone looks forward to, but it was especially challenging this term. Most of the classes this semester are new material and we can no longer rely on our knowledge from undergrad. The professors are starting to have higher expectations from us. As a student, I still am in the process of meeting that challenge. It was a small beat down, but a good wakeup call to 1. Drink more coffee 2. Start extra, extra early on notes 3. Get active regarding my learning.
A week after midterms ended we had proficiencies: an exam of your clinical skills that’s both graded for accuracy and timing. Personally, I feel that while it’s high-stress to have a preceptor watch over your every move, I do better in a clinical practice setting vs. a scantron exam. I enjoy myself when around patients and find that once I get rolling, my nerves get calmed and I perform better overall. This time around we had our exam on presbyopia evaluations, slit lamp, ophthalmoscopy, and basic entrance testing. It was a good bridge of refining knowledge from last year and building upon them with new skills. I was incredibly nervous during refraction because my patient was also an O.D. and a professor on campus, but she paid me the best compliment and made me almost cry from happiness (and stress). She told me that even in such a high-stress situation, I seemed to enjoy myself and was very natural in my flow and interaction, and that made her feel more comfortable as a patient and more confident in my clinical skills. I can’t speak for all, but when a professor tells me I did a good job in anything, I pretty much fan-girl on the inside. A fan girl gets obsessive about something they like. Some people fan-girl about movie stars and rockers, I, on the other hand, fan-girl about people who are where I want to be in the future.
I believe that this year is going to present many challenges, but I also have faith that with the right balance of clinical skills and bookworm studying, I can survive while still maintaining the majority of my sanity. Second year is everything they promised and more. More tears, more laughter, more studying, but also more skill improvement and more precious moments with patients! So where I lack in sleep now, I’ll recover around Thanksgiving—because learning doesn’t stop for anything second year!