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Picking Up the Pace

Tiffany and two students in white coats

Another semester is just beginning, but after several weeks of summer vacation, I am getting ready for my new clinical placements! Over the summer term at NECO, I had the pleasure of experiencing three different clinic sites spread out over five days of the week.

At first this felt like a rather big step from second year clinical work. I went from a half day of a clinical placement once a week to three and a half days of clinic over the course of five days during the summer. It was certainly much busier and more responsibility. As I start my fall semester, I am grateful for the variety of lessons that each clinical placement showed me. I can really appreciate the difference between my clinical experience during my second and third year.

Looking back at my clinical experience during my second year, I felt like I was fumbling around while trying to figure out the flow of the exam. Preceptors gave me a lot of advice on how to change the flow of an exam depending on the type of exam and eventually things went more smoothly. I learned a lot about how to communicate with a patient in the exam room, something that I was very new to at the time.

In your third year, your clinical work is more about your growth as a clinician. It’s about becoming more efficient and trying to piece together what we have learned in class and applying it in clinic. Preceptors ask more about treatment and management of patients and they give constructive criticism on how to present a case efficiently.

Adjusting to three different clinical placements simultaneously seemed difficult at first but after a couple of weeks of guidance from the preceptors and fourth year students, navigating through exams and the health systems became easier. The real challenge I faced was working with patients that spoke different languages. Communication is essential between a health provider and their patients, and I had some experience working with patients but not enough to feel comfortable on day one.

Each clinic I worked in has a different demographic and a different experience. At Uphams Corner, they serve many Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish speaking patients. I learned how to use staff translators amd certain key words to guide exams.  I also got my first hands-on experience in the optical center at a clinic site. Prior to this clinic, the only optical experience I had was with any pairs of glasses that I owned or in Optics lab at NECO.  I was glad to have the opportunity to learn the optical procedures at Uphams  Corner when I could. At South End Community Health Center, there were many Spanish speaking patients, and I learned more Spanish phrases to become more efficient in the exam room. Throughout my summer placements, I gradually became more comfortable with the flow of exams and the supplemental equipment that I often required help with during my second year.

In addition to getting to do more clinical work during our third year, students have the option to take certain electives. I had the opportunity to join the elective that has a clinical component to it. The Special Populations Elective Course (SPEC) pairs students with a mentor at their clinic for certain populations. I was paired with a clinical faculty member at NECO Center for Eye Care Commonwealth for contact lenses. Although I have had contact lens experiences, I rarely had the chance to do a full contact lens fitting exam or work with specialty contact lenses on my own in clinic. With the help of the NECO doctor, my understanding of contact lens exams has most definitely improved.

 This semester I will be working with the low vision population at the College’s clinic, NECO Center for Eye Care. My second clinical placement is at the Roslindale center. I look forward to seeing how much we will grow our skills this year at our new clinics!

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.