ODs on Facebook: A Student’s Perspective

I joined the Facebook group “ODs on Facebook” soon after beginning my first year of optometry school. Social media is a great tool, so why not use it to learn more about clinical cases and see what doctors like to talk about regarding their practices?

As with all social media, however, I got more than I bargained for. In a group with over 25,000 members, there is a wide spectrum of opinions and ways of expressing those opinions. There are new doctors and old doctors, those who would do it all over again, and those who would have chosen a different profession. People will post positive, uplifting cases that remind you why you’re doing this in the first place, and others post about the frustrations of this profession.

Here are some of the most common frustrations expressed:

  • Patients can be ignorant regarding the severity of their conditions and may choose to ignore the advice you give them.
  • Other medical professionals (especially ophthalmologists and other MDs) may question your education and ability to diagnose a disease or refer out for a diagnosis.
  • There are websites that claim to have the ability to diagnose and treat refractive error, which is misleading and puts patients’ health and safety at risk.
  • Insurance companies are for-profit companies, so they only care about the bottom line. Reimbursement payments for eye exams are dwindling.

For the other optometry students reading this, I’m sure you’ve heard these frustrations before. These issues are not exclusive to ODs on Facebook. They are the largest issues in our profession, and state and national organizations are fighting against them, but the process takes time, money, and effort. To the pre-optometry students who are reading this, know that these are the struggles you may face once you are in practice, or even as a student intern!

What I have noticed, however, is that the doctors who post about these issues are doing so in frustration that they can’t do MORE to help their patients. Children are placed on ADHD medication when all they need is an eyeglasses prescription. Men and women lose their sight to diabetic retinopathy because they do not come in sooner for an eye exam. And the doctors who see these patients cannot help but think, “If only I had seen them sooner, or educated them better, etc.,” but these “if only’s” are hard to bear. In this way, ODs on Facebook is a support group.

Here are some of the wonderful posts that I have seen on ODs on Facebook:

  • Funny quotes from patients, especially kids, because they say the darndest things.
  • Success stories about how patients are referred out and are treated earlier for a debilitating disease.
  • Kids being able to see with glasses for the first time, or
    older patients having their vision saved after quick action following a retinal detachment.
  • Help/second opinions on a diagnosis or treatment of a tough case.
  • Exciting news regarding the expansion of practices and tipsfor other doctors in practice management.
  • Eye-related comics and gifs, because who doesn’t see enough of them?

When I read the comments on these posts, doctors congratulate one another and laugh together. They share their own stories, pictures, and gifs. Then I see the family that is the profession of optometry.

It is for these posts that I continue to be a member of ODs on Facebook. Is it discouraging to see those negative posts? Yes, absolutely, but I pause to add a grain of salt, a dose of realism, and keep looking forward as my optimistic self. I know why I decided to pursue this profession, and nothing that I see or hear will change that integral part of me.

For current or prospective students, I encourage you to have full knowledge of your own reason for joining this profession. No career-path is perfect, and choosing to hold onto what brought you to optometry in the first place will help to withstand any storm.

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