In addition to midterm and final exams, at NECO we also take proficiency exams that test our practical optometric skills. The majority of our classes each semester have a laboratory component, and although material learned and reinforced in lab can be tested on our written exams, we also need to have our practical skills assessed so that our preceptors can determine whether or not we are ready to perform procedures on patients. Specifically, we have a proficiency every semester in Principles and Practices of Optometry, and these proficiencies have increased in difficulty as we learn to perform more complex procedures and spend more time in clinic. Now that I am nearing the end of my second year at NECO, my final proficiency exam is rapidly approaching. This semester we are going to be evaluated on our ability to perform some of the most difficult procedures we will learn at NECO, and because of this, my classmates and I have been spending a great deal of time practicing on each other’s eyes in preclinic.
In the weeks leading up to proficiencies, I really admire how my classmates are able to work together unselfishly to make sure that everyone is prepared for our exams. Since we are all committed to performing well on the exam, students are always willing to come practice with each other after class. We work together, alternating partners and acting as preceptors for each other to help determine whether we are performing the procedures correctly. Half of our proficiency is performed undilated–we are required to perform a slit lamp examination of the cornea, tonometry, gonioscopy, and punctal plug insertion on a patient for the first section of the exam. Two of the techniques we are being tested on, binocular indirect ophthalmoscope (BIO) and scanning the optic nerve and macula with a 90D lens (which we usually refer to as 90), require a patient to be dilated. It’s easy to expect that students would be selfish and not want to be dilated in order to practice on more students, but instead we work together, alternating days that we dilate so that everyone sits as a patient for one another and we all get a turn to practice. Half of our class had proficiencies last week, and half (including me) are taking theirs this week. We’ve been able to use that to our advantage in preparation, working together so that we can sit as patients when our classmates’ proficiencies are imminent and working as student doctors when ours are close.
This semester, in addition to our PPO proficiencies, we are also going to be taking proficiency exams in Contact Lens and Binocular and Accommodative Anomalies. These proficiencies will evaluate our capacity for fitting and evaluating contact lenses and performing vision therapy techniques on patients, respectively. What’s interesting about my classes this semester is that not only am I expanding my skill set of basic optometric techniques, but I’m learning more specialized procedures for specific patients and types of clinics that I may encounter during my career.
I’d like to wish all of my classmates good luck on our proficiencies!