My WesternU Clerkship Experience – Part I

By: Thai Nguyen
Western University 2013 Student

In this month’s article, I wanted to highlight some my clerkship experiences at WesternU College of Optometry. I’m a firm believer that true learning occurs outside of the classroom. At WesternU, I’ve had the privilege of rotating through four clerkship sites, and learning from preceptors in the areas of vision rehabilitation and primary care… I will highlight two of them today.

Last year, during the spring semester, as a first year optometry student, my 1st clerkship site was at a vision rehabilitation clinic. Prior to attending our clerkship sites, we had been introduced to the various vision rehabilitation techniques, and we had passed a proficiency on clerkships. My preceptor at this vision rehab site was a 22 year veteran and a SCCO alumnus. Each week, before seeing the patients, we would both discuss their files. During the actual exam, my preceptor would explain to me the purpose of each exam technique. After the exams, we would discuss the logic of the patient assessments and treatment plans. During this time, he would also teach me the business aspects of running a vision rehab practice. By working with his vision therapist, I was also able to develop a rapport with his vision therapy patients. Both of them taught me how to properly treat patients. The most valuable clinical pearl that I learned from my preceptor was how to properly explain the test results to the parents of the pediatric patients. Again, being able to successfully explain your findings and properly educate your patients will definitely benefit your practice because patients will more likely return and refer patients to you if they believe in your explanations and educational plan.

Currently, my clerkship site is at a very busy, high volume primary care private practice for the past 5 weeks. Because half of the patients are Spanish-speaking, I’ve been able to practice some of my Spanish during patient interactions. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn how to be efficient with my entrance testing sequences. What has been useful about this site is that the wrap up session really allows us to discuss the results of the most interesting cases of the day. My most interesting case has been a patient diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, which has nothing to do with the R&B singer…I will discuss this case in more detail in my next article.

Again, I really believe our clerkship program has shortened my learning curve tremendously. It has taught me how to analyze test results, solve the patient’s chief complaint, and think like a doctor rather than just perform a procedure without justification, which is what a technician does. Finally, being able to interact with patients, and learning techniques and cases from more highly experienced preceptors have been a very vital and rewarding part of my optometric education…something that I always look forward to each and every week.

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