I was in clinic one day and waiting for the next patient arrival when a patient who just finished an exam approached me. He said, “Doc can I wash my eye and clean away all these drops? How long do these drops last? Do I really need to come back in 2 years? Why did they need to dilate my eyes?”
Huh? The patient was actually going to flush his eyes with water in order to wash away our drops. I was taken aback and realized that we did not take the time to explain the goals of some of our tests. Even though we need to be aware of the time spent, especially when the clinic is very busy, we also need to make sure our patient is aware of what we are doing.
Here’s is a list of information that I believe what we need to explain carefully:
1. The purpose of the exam and what we will accomplish at the end of the exam. What it is that we are trying to achieve as related to the chief complaint.
2. The purpose of certain drops. We need to explain how long they last and what their effect is.
3. The purpose of our tests. In first and second year, we are taught to take the effort of explaining what each test does. Once we’re in clinic it’s easy to forget to do so when we’re in a time crunch. However, as long as we are brief in our explanation we should be fine.
4. Taking a history throughout the exam. While we are doing a retinoscopy or BIO, keep taking history! As you do so, you may obtain some information that you could have missed during the first few minutes of the exam.
5. Explain why and when they are coming back. For example, if they are coming back for visual fields we need to explain why these tests are important and why they need to come back for these tests.
One of the reasons why I wanted to become an optometrist is having the privilege of interacting with patients. As optometrists, we have the great honor and duty to educate our patients, please take every opportunity to do so!