And just like that, 2017 has begun. We’ve completed our first year and moved on to our second, mingled with the new Class of 2020 students, overcome our proficiencies, and interacted with our first patients in our respective clinics. Now that it’s a new year and new semester, we rotate into another new clinic!
One of the main reasons why I chose to go to New England College of Optometry was due to its clinical education program. With locations all over the Greater Boston, I would have the opportunity to rotate through different types of communities all over the city. This gives us the chance to improve our clinical skills, develop our patient communication skills, and delve into various clinical environments (private practice, VA, hospital, etc.), allowing us to form our own opinions about what kind of environment we would prefer to work in in the future.
For the fall semester, I was located in Dimock Community Health Center. Second year students were assigned there once a week for roughly half of the work day. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we had the task of staying on top of our learned skills, practicing our new skills, as well as balancing our classwork. Now I’m not going to lie, the first day of clinic can be overwhelming. You're in a new environment, trying to swiftly become an expert in the computer system and interacting with patients who see you as a professional in the field. But before we saw patients on our own, we shadowed third and fourth year students to get an idea of the flow and how things work. Being at Dimock taught me a great deal on how to analyze cases and I took away the following lessons and more by the end of the semester:
- Do not be afraid to converse with your preceptor. They are there to help further develop your skills. They understand where you are in the curriculum and want you to do your best in the field. Typically, classes guide you through cases, but when you are on your own there won't be anyone to hold your hand. Now is the time to discuss cases with your preceptor and ask for tips.
- Create a notebook of procedures. This is something I regret not doing from day one. Instead of reviewing notes or lectures from multiple classes over the past year and a half, it would be much more efficient to have put everything into one notebook that you can bring to clinic. And moving forward, you can add on new tips from preceptors into the notebook!
- Be confident. Patients smell fear. Not really, but I’m sure they are aware when you are nervous. When they look to you as the professional, you need to act professionally. This definitely takes time, but my time spent at Dimock improved how composed I am with patients.
- Learn to improvise. Not every case is black and white. Not every conversation goes by the book. It is easy to follow what we learned step by step in class but every patient is different so every interaction will be different!
Next week I will begin patient care in a private practice, and I look forward to learning more about the differences between the two clinics and building upon my clinical skills!
Photo caption: Happy holidays from my NECO family to yours!
Tiffany is a third year student at New England College of Optometry. Born and raised in Maryland, she graduated from the University of Maryland in both Biological Sciences and Psychology. Her initial interest in optometry stems from shadowing and working in practices that provide vision therapy.