Happy holiday season, everyone! It is hard to believe it’s Thanksgiving already. I can feel the fall semester coming to a close all too soon! The 4th year optometry students recently completed another 3-month rotation at a clinical site of their preference. The last (4th) year of optometry school is split between four different rotation sites. The options of where they can go to work vary considerably. You can choose from areas in Florida, Oregon, Alaska, or even Spain. The OD4s’ second site assignment just came to a close and soon they start a new 3-month cycle once again.
In the pediatric clinic I work in, there were three OD4s that said goodbye us this week. I did not realize how sad 4th year could be! I imagined it was about feeling on top of the world, confident as a clinician, and excitedly awaiting graduation. It may include those aspects, but it’s also an end of an era. NECO graduation will mean the end of four years of friends, professors, and the city of Boston.
I realize I will be in that position one day, hopefully handling the impending life changes ahead of me as gracefully as the OD4s did this week. As for now, though, I am consumed with fast-approaching final exams. All it takes is the mention of the pharmacology final to send my nose back into the textbook. Why do I like knowing things, but find studying so difficult?
What’s great about starting to work in a clinical setting is that classes become more obviously relevant to “real life.” This gives us a new perspective to use in order to learn the material. I’m no longer thinking what kind of test question this material could turn into (okay maybe a little), but I’m also asking myself how will I handle this condition if I see it in a patient. As I have learned from my preceptor, once you find some variation in the patient that needs attention, you have to change the exam accordingly—ask yourself, “What questions do you need to ask? What extra tests do I need to do? How do I document what I see?”
Of course as OD2s, our training is incomplete while we are seeing patients (with guidance) that obviously are not specific for the material covered in the second year of optometry school. Clinic is real people walking in and they can present with anything! You’re going to have to learn on the spot sometimes. For example, a technique I’ve learned from my preceptor (while my patient was in the exam chair) is the 4 Base Out test. This test is an important one to incorporate into your exam when you have a patient with an amblyopic (or weaker) eye and you want to see if the patient is using their central vision in that weaker eye. It simply involves placing a prism in front of the patient’s eye and watching for eye movements that follow. It’s a great and simple test that tells you if your patient is using one eye or both. I’m also going to remember the 4 BO test because I learned it on a real patient, on the spot.
Even with the exhaustion that comes after a clinic day, I feel better and more confident every time I work. In third year when clinic days change from one day a week to multiple days per week, it’s going to be a whole new level of optometry.