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What Does a Three Year-Old Have in Common With a First Year Optometry Student?

Posted by on October 17, 2013

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An update from my last post: I’ve since seen my first low vision patient from start to finish, meaning performed his low vision evaluation, worked through the paperwork of prior authorizations, had the devices he needed sent to us and dispensed them to him today! (Now, the last step is a few last steps to get the devices paid for.) Today was actually a busy low vision day — 3 patients, all at various stages of the low vision evaluations, from a first time patient to a long time patient who needed more functional assessment. It’s a nice feeling when you realize that the skills you’ve learned at NECO are exactly that, skills.

Each of us, by the end of our four years here, will have developed slightly different skills sets based on our interests and where those interests lead us in our fourth year rotation sites. Each interaction with a patient or with a preceptor or fellow classmate is a new learning opportunity. Take advantage of these. In your mind, you are building a bank of patients and ocular conditions/diseases. That way, the next time you see a patient with a similar presentation, you have an experience to draw from. Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that just because one patient with a certain condition responded in a particular way to treatment, that all others will behave in the same way.


Two weeks ago, I started taking the first year students on vision screenings to the Head Start programs throughout Boston. Examining the three and four year-olds was the first task during my own first year, my first interactions with “real” patients. I remember how proud I was to go out and work with these students. How excited I was to travel across Boston, preventing amblyopia, one child at a time! This was right after I had returned from my first teaching experience, teaching first and second grade out in New Mexico, and each time I entered a school, I was reminded of my students.

I try to remember that excitement each week when I go to meet the first year students to bring them on their first screening. I think it’s hard sometimes to be the teacher you want to be while in the moment of performing a vision screening, since there are so many things going on between needing to keep the pre-schoolers’ attention and also pointing things out to the first year students. It’s funny to think that the pre-schoolers have been in school for about as long as the green optometry students, and they likely share some of the same nervous energy about the “new-ness” of the experience. It makes me think twice about situations where I felt I was taught very well and those where I felt like a learning opportunity was missed. I hope I’m taking advantage of more than I’m missing with my students.

Despite the age difference, teaching seven and eight year-olds isn’t that different from teaching optometry students, and I don’t mean that as even the slightest bit of an insult. Obviously the content is different, but the basic techniques of excitement, passion, positivity and encouragement still remain the overriding principles to a successful teaching/learning encounter.

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