Just as I feel I’m getting in the flow of things, residency continues to challenge me–increased patients in my schedule, taking on more responsibilities around the clinic, feeling accountable for my own patients and working in preclinic in my “off-hours.” I’ve been doing something I rarely did in my spare time before: looking up journal articles to read on topics that interest me or in areas I want to learn more about.
I’m working in pre-clinic about once a week, which is the in-school optometry lanes or mini exam rooms where our first and second year students go to practice the new techniques/skills they are learning to incorporate into the eye exam. I remember how stressful those evenings and weekends could be, needing to get homework assignments observed and checked off by the residents, feeling pressure from the growing number of people in the room and learning procedures that always somehow took forever in the beginning. I remember it taking me at least 25 minutes to do keratometry for the first time! (First years, you’ll know what that is soon enough.)
I was able to have a fair amount of low vision clinical experience (low vision meaning working with patients who are visually impaired) throughout my time at NECO, and it was important to me in finding a residency program where I would be able to continue to do this type of work. The past few months at clinic have felt interim: our original low vision optometrist has moved and our new doctor has not yet begun, but we still have low vision patients who would benefit from a timely exam, so I have been able to take on these patients!
It’s been the first time I’ve had to work (with plenty of help from my low vision mentor at NECO, as well as our clinic’s previous low vision doctor) to decode the various forms and paperwork that are required to register patients with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and to get prior authorization from insurance companies to cover much needed devices like magnifiers for our patients. I’m really enjoying working in this new role and have been getting “referrals” from our other doctors in clinic when they see a patient who could benefit from a low vision evaluation.
I find myself in a unique position, being a teacher one day, then more on the receiving end of education the next. Today after making what I felt like were a few blunders amidst being overwhelmed by non-English speaking patients I couldn’t communicate with, all of whom had a complicated ocular history and presentation, and juggling them with a walk-in (welcome to real life clinic, Kristin), I found myself in the position I felt some of my students were in last night while working in pre-clinic, floundering through answers to questions I should have had more confident answers to.
It made me realize how grateful I am to be doing a residency–a year where I am forced to think more critically, analyze my cases, delve further into differential diagnoses, not allowing myself/not being allowed to become complacent with my current knowledge level. The sign of a good academic challenge: the more you know the more you realize you don’t know.