Thinking about summer conjures up thoughts of sunning, swimming, tanning, surfing. Or perhaps you think of hiking, camping, trekking. Maybe you will journey to distant lands and soak up new cultures and learn a new language.
Your summer plans as a prospective optometry student differ from those of an incoming student of the Class of 2016.
As a prospective optometry student, summer vacation provides a great opportunity to really investigate the field. What is a day like for an optometrist in private practice? How does it differ for an optometrist practicing in a community health center or in a hospital? What is a day like for a doctor specializing in low vision? How about a Veterans Administration setting, vision therapy practice, contact lens specialty, or MD/OD practice?
Spending one day per week of summer vacation shadowing optometrists in each of these specialties also gives you opportunities to pursue other summer activities. Best of all, you would begin to get a brief but true-life exposure to the realities of different modes of practice. You would begin the start of your own network of potential employers.
How would you find optometrists willing to welcome you into their practices for the day? Your state optometric association can be one avenue to explore. Your own OD or MD may be another. You will also find that many ODs have a referral network of specialists for their own patients, and this list may suggest other ODs for you to contact.
If, in the process of exploration, you decide you would like to pursue optometry as your career and are not yet ready to begin the admissions process, think about applying for a full-time job in an optometrist’s office. Whether technician, front desk or other position, once again you strengthen your commitment to the profession and increase your knowledge base.
As an incoming student, hopefully you have a full-time summer job with an OD who you may have met during your prospective optometry days. Now you are looking at your summer job as a prelude to your first year of optometry school. You observe how patients are greeted. You see how many appointments per day are booked. When invited, you observe the doctor during the patient exam. You wonder why each test is done, why each patient may have different tests, what the results actually mean. You may be given the chance to actually do some tests under the doctor’s supervision. It seems to be so easy for the doctor to decide what is to be done; it seems each test is done so gracefully and it seems so easy for the doctor to educate the patient. It begins to sink in: in 4 years, this will be ME. How will I transform into this knowing, experienced, compassionate OD?
Summer vacations provide opportunities for quiet reflection on who you are now and who you will become. The value of this is impossible to assess: learning more about your career cannot be measured in salary. Take the opportunity to turn your summer into a priceless experience of career exploration.