2014. Six months into residency and things have really picked up. I really feel like the independence, responsibility and workload have intensified dramatically over the past few weeks, and I’m loving the challenge! My patient schedule has increased to match my attendings’ schedules, which means no more breaks throughout the day aside from lunch, unless there’s a ‘no-show.’ Because of this, it’s encouraging me to make more decisions on my own and only seek consultation with my attendings when I truly need to consult with something, rather than simply from the habit of doing so. I’m becoming more confident in my findings and making decisions regarding treatment and follow-up much easier than previously. I’ve been having a lot more opportunity to work with the interns, which encourages me to think on my feet more, make decisions on the spot and become more comfortable being the one in charge.
The more I work at the health center, the more impressed I am by the services that are provided to its patients. I met today with a nurse-practitioner who works as a case manager working to help the most high-risk patients at the health center to guide them through the many challenges of meeting health care goals outside of the exam room–understanding and maintaining insurance policies, gaining access to food banks or other sources of healthy food options and overall helping the individual name and meet their personal lifestyle goals. We discussed the need for addressing lack of follow-up in a non-judgemental manner, realizing the many complicating life factors that stand in the way of many people even attending an appointment, let alone following through on a plan decided on by someone in a white coat. It really helped to open my eyes to many of the difficulties faced by our patients: homelessness, abuse, lack of adequate food, and illness and it was a good reminder to be sensitive to what goes on for that person outside of my exam room.
One lecture in particular that stuck with me from optometry school was one regarding how to conduct eye exams for patients with mental and/or physical disabilities. What I took away from that lecture as being most important, as well as useful in working with all populations, is to treat your patients as a guest in your home. It is your job as host to make them feel welcome; make them feel comfortable. It is your job to make it an inviting setting where they would want to come back. I try to remember that with all my patients.
It can be easy, especially when not speaking the same primary language as some of my patients, to get caught up with what exam findings you need to record and forget about how scary of a situation it would be to show up to a medical exam unable to communicate directly with the person who was about to bring many objects very close to your eyes and put drops into them that make your vision blurry for the next few hours. It’s something we often take for granted, because in order to make it through optometry school, we become very accustomed to these tests. But for many patients, the procedures we perform routinely can be as foreign as the language itself. This can be counteracted by how we make our patients feel at home in this setting where they may feel very out of place.
Every day, I am reminded what an opportunity we as optometrists have to make connections with so many, to provide for them a welcoming smile, a listening ear and the best vision possible.
Photos from a day at the MFA.