Starting in the clinic as a new optometry student can be stressful. However, following these 4 steps may help to relieve some stress and help you build the confidence you need to be successful.
1. Review charts the day before, at the beginning of the day, or even for 2 minutes before you call your patient in. See what kind of cases are coming in that day and if there’s anything that you’re not familiar with, write it down! You can also develop a loose exam flow based on the case. This will remove variables and remove some decision-making so you can be present in the exam room and focus on your patient. Besides, your patient doesn’t want to be looking at the back of your head while you frantically scroll through their chart for the first time! Examples of things to look for include:
- Are there ocular side effects? …How do I even pronounce that?! Just knowing how to say a certain medication instills confidence both you and your patient.
- Contact Lens brands. What are they wearing and how does it compare to similar lenses. Have they tried daily lenses before?
- Do I know how to operate this OCT without hiccups?
- Social History. If your patient is an existing patient, check out their occupation and hobbies. This is great for small talk at the beginning of your exam or if you have a lull between exam testing. Not only does this help you understand their visual needs, but your patient will feel like you care about them as a person.
- Assessment & Plan. Perhaps the most important part of chart review – WHY are they coming in today? Is it their annual exam? Is it an emergency?
Think out loud to your attendings (*but do it logically). Show your attendings how you think and how you arrive at your conclusions. Optometry is all about weighing the data you’ve gathered to provide the best treatment, and this gives you the upper hand on the amazing (and ever-improving) autorefractor and other instruments you have in your clinic. Each attending has developed their own way of thinking based on their experience in practice. Ask them both how they approach certain scenarios and why.
- Disclaimer: Don’t go full monologue and ramble on and on to your attendings. Learn how to present your patient with emphasis on the most relevant information. I’ve found that it’s more helpful to jot down short notes in my notebook before going to my attending!
- TIL (“Today I Learned”) for 10 minutes that day. In high school, my teacher assigned the last 5 minutes of class to “WILT,” or write “What I Learned Today.” “TIL” sounds a lot more positive than wilting doesn’t it? Spending 10 minutes soon after the exam will save you a lot of time later since it’s fresh in your mind.
- Step 1: Write down key things that you learned from each exam. Did something come up that you weren’t familiar with? Was there something you liked or disliked about your exam flow or patient consultation? What questions did the patient have that may be common knowledge in the optometry world, but not in the real world?
- Step 2: Become a mini-expert in any relevant topic. Go beyond the basics of what a condition is and get to know its causes, treatment options, etc. You don’t have to read an extensive research paper if you don’t want to! Youtube and EyeWiki are great resources for this.
- Have fun! Remember that whether you’re a student or an optometrist, you’ll always be “practicing” optometry. That means that there’s no need to be perfect now, but you should always be striving to be better. During clinic, your attendings will be giving you a lot of feedback and it may be overwhelming or disheartening at times. Who likes to be told that they messed up? Not me! Who likes telling people that they messed up? Not me either! Remind yourself that your attendings are there because they enjoy teaching and their goal is to train you to be a great clinician. Knowledge is power! Learning is so much easier when you approach it with a positive attitude.
- BONUS: Bring an easy but sustaining lunch. You work hard during an exam, and your brain works harder than you think. Bringing a lunch that you don’t need to microwave can save you a precious 5 minutes that you can use to rest or catch up on messages during your lunch break. This is especially helpful for those GEEs that turn into a 2-hour glaucoma exam.
You’ve worked so hard to get to clinic and you deserve to be here! Go thrive in clinic!