The third rotation of fourth year students recently started at our clinic, which reminds me that it was this time one year ago that I moved to Spain to begin that adventure–the people I met, the clinical experiences I had that rounded out my American optometric education, the places I saw; I could be transported back there in an instant in my thoughts. (See previous blogs for details.) With the new rotation of students begins the sixth month of my residency. It’s a good reminder to think back to my own uncertainty beginning any new clinical rotation, each clinic with its various nuances that can easily disrupt the delicate balance of the rhythm to your exam you spent the past three months honing. The thing with doing eye exams, the more you do, the more you are able to develop a routine. When we’re starting out, we need to remember step by step: what case history questions do I ask and in what order? What test do I do next? Did I do everything I needed to before going to check in with my preceptor? There’s enough running through your head as a student, that sometimes it can be easy to forget that there’s a person sitting in this small, dimly lit room with you and some casual conversation also helps things to flow nicely. This becomes easier, of course; the more exams you do, the less you need to think about each step along the way, and you one day catch yourself flowing more quickly and easily through the tests in your exam without having to explicitly think what comes next, so instead, you can use that brain power to interpret what you’re seeing. “Does this finding make sense? What additional tests outside of my ‘routine exam’ do I now need to do based on this finding? What further questions should I ask the patient to see if the clinical signs are causing symptoms for this patient? Is the patient seated comfortably in the exam chair?” It allows us to better treat and better connect with our patients. It’s important to think back to those moments in my own training and to try to respond to the situations that arise with the fourth year students I’m working with in a way that respects the fact that I likely came across the same difficulties at one point or another during my own training. Having received the same education, I know what areas were difficult for me to understand until I was in clinic regularly and I try to elucidate this knowledge. I feel I have to take advantage of being so recently out of school, that my own past areas of confusion are still fresh enough in my mind to rectify them for others.
We had a holiday breakfast at work today to celebrate the collaborative work of all the health center’s workers. It’s so encouraging to be a part of such a large collective working on so many different levels to provide the best care to the most patients in the most efficient manner possible. From the top level bosses, who served lunches to the rest of the 300+ person staff before themselves being allowed a chance to eat, to people smiling and holding the door for each other in the hallways, the spirit of teamwork echoes from all corners of the building. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and at risk of sounding cliche, I’m grateful for the past four years’ worth of experiences at NECO, for the opportunity to pursue more knowledge and work in an ever-challenging academic and clinical environment, and to be a part of a community that strives everyday to better serve the needs of its patients’ overall health and well-being.