It’s fall in Boston, and with fall comes gorgeous changing leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween…and midterms. Although it feels as though second year has barely started, we are only two weeks away from midterms and four from our second year proficiency exams. The year so far has been filled with classes and clinic, both of which demand a great deal from us as students and clinicians because of the direct impact they will have on our future careers.
This semester, we are taking a third semester of Optics and Principles and Practices of Optometry, or PPO, and three new classes: Immunology, General Pharmacology, and Binocular Vision and Ocular Motility, or BVOM, as we call it. Our coursework this year has a great deal of direct application to our future as optometrists; by expanding on what we learned last year, we are able to cover more complex aspects of optometry that even a year ago we would not have been able to understand. In PPO, we have moved on from learning about basic optometric testing to learning about different procedures with the slit lamp, and from learning about eye disorders based more on visual acuity, the pupils, and strabismus to abnormalities and disorders that have to do with ocular health, such as dry eye, eyelid abnormalities, and disorders of the cornea. We have moved on from studying retinoscopy and refraction to being proficient with both, and are becoming more apt at testing with a near add or for binocular vision disorders. In BVOM, we’re expanding on concepts we discussed in our first year class Theories and Methods of Vision Training and learning a lot of more in-depth information about how and why we are able to see binocularly, and what abnormalities can result from the way our visual system works. In Pharmacology, we are learning about different types and mechanisms of action of various systemic medications that our future patients will be taking so that we can better understand their medical history as an entire person, not simply a pair of eyes. Overall, our classes this year have increased in terms of complexity, and it is inspirational to think about the fact that what we learn in class will have a direct impact on the way we treat our patients.
As a second year, I have also started a clinical rotation. One afternoon a week, I am able to go to an optometry practice and work with other NECO students and an optometrist to treat patients. The type of learning I am able to do in clinic is very different from how I learn in class; in clinic, we learn direct applications of optometric principles, as well as different ways to interact with patients. At my clinic site, I am able to perform tests that I learned last year on actual patients and collaborate with third year students and my preceptor to understand patients’ individual situations and how they will be treated based on their unique set of circumstances. Not only am I learning more about procedures by performing and observing them in clinic, I am learning how to perform tests like retinal imaging and what to do if my patient speaks a language other than English. I am also able to see a much greater variety of eye disorders than I do when going on screenings or practicing procedures on my classmates, like different types of cataracts, dry eye, and presbyopia.
It’s very interesting to be learning both as a student and a clinician in my second year of optometry school, and I anticipate being able to learn more information more effectively because of it. One of the main reasons I chose to attend NECO was its clinical education program’s stellar reputation, and I am glad to be benefiting from it so early on in my education.