I cannot believe that I am a third year student now! Before writing this blog, I was looking through my phone pictures to find some interesting things to share with you. When flipping through the my pictures, I had some pictures of PowerPoint slides I had sent my friend, Jessica, asking her questions as we got ready for finals for spring semester. This semester has been such an intense start that those finals feel like they were ancient history. This has probably been the fastest and biggest change I have ever had in school. We finished our second year finals on Monday, April 30 and started as third years on Monday, May 7. I did my best to really soak up the relaxation that week knowing it was going to be an intense transition. Surprisingly, we were all pretty ready to get the semester started. We have passed the halfway point, and we are all realizing that our time here is finite, so we want to savor it, but we also are a bit relieved to know we crossed the halfway mark.
This summer feels a bit like being a first year again where you feel a bit like a fish out of water or maybe a fish falling down a waterfall. Whatever analogy you prefer, it is an uncomfortable time for us. We all have two or three clinics every semester of third year. This summer I have Primary Vision Care clinic one afternoon and one morning a week. I also have Eyewear Gallery (all things related to spectacles) one afternoon a week. I actually love my schedule! I get 3/5 afternoons off a week, which is perfect for summer! We all have one half-day in Primary Vision Care and then one to two other assignments (Eyewear Gallery, Advanced Ocular Care, or Vision Therapy). Later in third year we will have contact lens clinic. We have class every other day of the week, and we have one half day of labs.
The reason we are all uncomfortable right now is because the transition from opt II clinic to opt III clinic is huge. We went from having a four hour time slot to do an exam on a family member/ friend/ volunteer to seeing two patients back to back in 2 hour times slots. I know practicing doctors can see as many as 16 patients a day, so saying 2 patients is hard seems ridiculous. At this phase, it really is challenging for us! The difference is, we do every single technique, we stay with the patient while they dilate, and the attending doctor re-does a lot of the exam to double check us, so it really does take 1.5-2 hours to do an exam. Not to mention, we are still learning, so we want to stop and look at everything for 5 minutes!
It is sort of like having a new job right now. Our attending doctors are all different, so we are learning the ways of our new attendings, learning the quarks of the different exam rooms we are assigned to, and adjusting to the pace. It is intimidating yet exciting knowing that every day in clinic you have no idea what to expect. We may have a 16 year old patient who just wants their glasses updated or a 60 year old patient who comes in for blurry vision and we find diabetic retinopathy. You just really don’t know what you are going to see. Our clinic is incredibly diverse, so we are often working with patients who need an interpreter, modifications for wheel chairs, and accommodations for different religions. I have seen five patients so far, and I have already seen multiple conditions I did not expect to see so soon!
The other challenge of this time is that we are all so passionate about providing such perfect care for our patients that we are driving ourselves crazy. We often cannot stop thinking about our patients and obsessing over all the little things we could have done differently or better. It is a true test of your ability to persevere through the discomfort of the growing pains. We are not perfect and we are learning so much all at once, but we all want to be perfect and know everything now. The amazing and humbling part of this is that while in our heads we think about all the things we could have done better, the patients are always so kind and grateful. Even if we take two hours to the do the exam, they are always so patient and appreciative of our services. What I am not sure they know is that we are far more appreciative of their patience and willingness to come support our clinic.
While clinic is predominantly on our minds, we do have other things going on like contact lens lab! I came to optometry school having only had two eye exams in my life (I know. Crazy!). I got my first pair of glasses last summer, so I had no concept of the world of contact lenses. I have always thought they were just something a person preferred for cosmesis, but I am learning they are sometimes a better option for a patient’s vision. I am absolutely loving learning about contact lenses. We have been learning about the evolution of gas permeable lenses and all the material chemistry, which I have found fascinating! Believe it or not, your organic chemistry is useful! We are looking at the different polymer chemistry to explain the properties of the lenses. Dr. Bailey is teaching our course, and she emphasizes the importance of learning the properties and science behind the different lenses because the brands and products change so rapidly. Dr. Lai teaches the corresponding lab, and I am also loving that! We have a project to cut a gas permeable contact lens with particular dimensions from a generic starter lens. Today we learned the technique and worked on practice lenses. Historically optometrists made or modified gas permeable lenses in office fairly regularly. I guess it is not as common now, but we are doing the exercise to help reinforce the concepts behind the lens design and help us learn how to handle the lenses appropriately. Just polishing the lens can modify the power, so it is important to learn the limits of the material.
As per usual, I told myself to just be quick and write this blog, but I just have so much to share! I better stop here, so I can get some work done. I am going to put some pictures with captions to give a glimpse of life. Have a nice evening!