As I sit back and reflect upon my 4 years at NECO, I can’t believe how much it has changed me. Not only as a clinician, but as a person in general. When I first began, I had just graduated college. I thought I knew everything, but that mindset quickly changed.
As a first year, I learned very fast that the amount of studying I did in undergrad was not enough for optometry school. Hour long study sessions from undergrad turned into 4 hour long study sessions in optometry school. Short lab assignments from undergrad became much longer. However, I was also learning about optometry, a career that I was passionate about and more interested in.
Second year brought increased clinical responsibility. Not only was I studying for my classes, but now I was interacting directly with patients, often times in a 1 on 1 setting. The way I interacted with people was changing. At first, my interactions were robotic. I was basically spewing back what I had learned in class. I quickly learned that I needed to ask questions of patients in different ways, and that sometimes by having just a regular conversation with the patient, you can get many of the answers that you are looking for.
With third year came the inevitable: boards. While I had been studying throughout my time at NECO, this was a whole different beast. Now I was studying for a test that was on practically everything I had learned in the past 3 years. The aforementioned 4 hour long study sessions turned into full day study sessions. This was another hurdle to get past but I told myself that if I put the time in, it would all pay off. Of course, this was on top of the regular course load and clinical load, which had increased since second year.
Finally I was a fourth year! The day I had been waiting for since starting optometry school. I remember during first year, looking at the fourth years in awe. After all, they knew so much and were about to become doctors. Everyone told me that fourth year would fly by. I didn’t believe them, but every rotation this year has gone faster than the last one. I have been given great opportunities this year. First, I rotated through the VA. Then I had low vision and pediatrics, then my experiences in Alaska before returning to Boston for my community health rotation. All of these clinics have exposed me to different aspects of the practice of optometry, and I have learned unique things at each of them.
If I had any advice to give to incoming students, it would be to take advantage of the time you have in school. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can, ask questions, and enjoy your experience as a student. There are countless opportunities available to you that will not be available after graduation, so make the best of it. If you are interested in an opportunity, go for it. I promise you won’t regret it.