Another month has passed, and well, another year has also gone by.  2013 was a very exciting year for me, as it was my first official year fully in optometry school.  As I rang in the New Year, I could not stop reflecting on all of the things that happened in 2013, and how excited I am to see what 2014 will bring.  From becoming settled in Boston and learning the ins and outs of the city, to applying all the things I have learned at NECO in an actual clinic situation, I have realized that I have been a busy girl and I have managed to accomplish quite a lot.  Yes, being busy all of the time due to studying and school work was not always the most exciting or relaxing, but when I look back, it has definitely been worth it.

Specifically reflecting on this past semester, the second year class at NECO has learned a lot.  Personally, after completing my first year at NECO, I felt very accomplished and couldn’t imagine the workload ever becoming greater than what I had experienced so far.  I felt pretty busy while studying for my first year classes, but as soon as I took my first step into second year, I was quickly introduced to a workload that greatly exceeded that of first year.  At first, I felt very overwhelmed and wondered how it would be possible to keep up with all the material, homework and clinic assignments.  After the first couple of weeks went by, I was able to find a study schedule that worked for me, and I actually found that my clinic assignment was a nice way to “get away” from all of the studying and didactic work I was faced with from my classes.  My clinic assignment was at New England Eye Roslindale, and it was one of the best experiences I have had so far at NECO.  And to make it better, I get to stay at Roslindale for the spring semester, and I couldn’t be happier!

I am in NECO’s “TEST” program, which is a program for the second year students.  Through the TEST program, students are assigned to the same clinic location for the entire second year, and are encouraged to apply the skills that they learn in lab to their clinic experience to enhance their overall learning experience.  As I traveled to my first day of clinic, I was very nervous.  I knew that I wouldn’t just be thrown into patient care without any guidance, but I still did not know what exactly to expect!  Two other second year students were scheduled with me at Roslindale, and we all worked together to encourage each other and to practice some of the things that we had learned in class and lab before applying these skills to various patients.  My first day was a success.  The doctor I was working with was a great mentor, and I was able to shadow her on the first day to get my bearings and become familiar with the clinic and the flow of how operations were run.  As I left clinic that day, I couldn’t wait for the next week to pass and to go back for my second week!

Throughout the rest of the semester, I learned a lot from my clinic assignment.  I started off completing patient history and entrance tests and then working with the doctor to come up with an appropriate assessment and plan for each individual patient that we saw.  As the semester progressed, I was able to start refracting my patients and determining what glasses prescription would be best.  When I was taught a new skill in lab, the doctors at clinic did not hesitate to encourage me to use those skills with patients and they were always there to teach me and help me learn new tips and tricks to make the overall patient care experience more efficient and effective for my patients.  By my last week at clinic, I was taking patient history, refracting, and completing the slit lamp examination.  It was really neat to see things that I had been learning about in class and to apply what I had learned by making an effective plan for each individual patient.  When you learn about different diseases and conditions in class and just see pictures projected on the screen, it doesn’t come to life or feel like a reality until you actually see it in person.  Through my clinic experience, many of the things I learned about in class became a reality for me, and the treatments and management of these various conditions have now become engrained in my thought process.  This has made me feel more confident in my patient care skills, and has helped me figure out different ways to study some of these conditions and their respective management so that I remember them and fully understand their etiology and effects on each individual patient.

As I continuously reflect on all of the things I have learned this past year, and even just during this past semester, I sometimes can’t believe how much knowledge I have gathered.  I am looking forward to starting this spring semester, even though this winter vacation has been very relaxing and enjoyable.  I have heard from other students that this semester will be busier than any previous semester, but I am ready for the challenge!  Here’s to 2014, and all of the fun and excitement it may bring!


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