It’s proficiency time for the OD2s right now. We are all tested on the techniques we have learned since the beginning of the semester, so for this proficiency we have to perform techniques that evaluate the angle at the anterior chamber of the eye (gonioscopy) and the retina at the back of the eye (90 D and BIO). The former includes physically placing a lens onto the anesthetized eye and the latter involves dilating your patient’s pupil to get a wide view into the eye. This is our LAST proficiency in our Principles and Practice of Optometry (PPO) course. The next time we will need to perform these techniques under tested conditions will be to pass part III of the national board exam.
The third and final part of the national boards is evaluating your performance on all the skills and techniques you may have to use at some point in your day working as an optometrist. It covers the techniques of every proficiency we have had at NECO (in all and any classes), performed all at once, which is what you will be doing in your optometric exams. We take part III at the end of our 4th year at NECO to complete the process of obtaining our license to practice optometry.
Frankly, I’m glad to have more than two years left to practice my techniques as I work in clinics under licensed preceptors. Experience is the only way I am going to become consistently proficient in all clinical skills, patient communication, and comfortable making my own decisions on how to monitor, treat, refer, or prescribe for patients.
When I was in undergrad and applying to optometry schools, many people were shocked after I answered their question of “how many years is optometry school?” They couldn’t fathom how a doctor of the eye needs four years of school. “There isn’t that much to the eye though,” they would say. Well, there isn’t four years worth of anatomy to the eye, but there is four years worth of what an OD can see in the back of the eye, the techniques it takes to do that, using retinoscopy to objectively find out what glasses prescription a person needs to see without them saying a word, contact lens fittings, recognizing retinal dystrophies, corneal dystrophies, optic nerve head malformation, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, amblyopia, strabismus, cataracts, and much more. I will admit that even I did not know the scope of material that optometry encompassed before I started at NECO.
The increase in difficulty of clinical techniques and amount of credit hours taken in second year has been challenging, but OD2 spring semester (which we are in now) is the most difficult semester at NECO. I think my class is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now. We are already over halfway done with the toughest part of NECO and everything gets more relevant to patient care from here. Third year we will all truly start to feel like clinicians, gaining more independence from our preceptors as we are capable of performing the entire routine, comprehensive eye examination after this proficiency is done! The rest of our time in PPO’s “pre-clinic” will be learning more auxiliary techniques and refining our skills to be able to adapt to any clinical situation in our future.
Excellent job to the OD2s who already had proficiency this week and good luck to all those in next week’s rounds!