As your 3rd year begins to wrap up, you are probably starting to get prepared for your first rotation as a 4th year optometry student. This time is very exciting and represents a huge transition in your path to becoming a doctor. You will no longer be taking classes, midterms, and finals at school; you’ll be out working in a clinic (likely 8 hours a day, 5 days per week), seeing patients and absorbing all the information you can to help prepare you for the “real world.”
You will also be treated differently as a 4th year optometry student. Your staff doctors are going to be expecting a lot more from you. You’ll be challenged on a daily basis so that you’ll start to feel more comfortable making complex medical decisions and more confident in your clinical skills. This is your last chance to “take it all in,” so we’ve come up with a few tips to make sure you take advantage of all your rotations have to offer (even when you stay at your school’s clinic).
1. Do Your Research
Have an idea of who the attending doctor is that you’ll be working with and be sure to make contact with your staff doctor before heading out to your rotation site. Make sure that you know what equipment you need to bring, what attire you are expected to wear, and what time to show up. I’d also recommend asking what the first few days at the new site will entail so that you know if you’ll be shadowing first, or jumping directly into patient care. This will help you be more mentally prepared and reduce any anxiety if you know what to expect on your first day.
Know the types of patients that you should expect to see. If you are going to be working at a refractive surgery center, brush up on some of the criteria for LASIK surgery candidates. Or if you'll be working at a VA hospital, you may want to review the staging for diabetic or hypertensive retinopathy and macular degeneration. If you are able to intelligently show knowledge and answer questions from your new staff doctors, I guarantee they will be very impressed and trust you earlier on in your rotation.
2. Scope Out the Clinic Before
When you get to the city your rotation site will be, scope out the clinic before your first day so that you know exactly where you are going, what the traffic in the area is like in the morning, and what the parking situation looks like. Plan to arrive early on the first day. Even if you have to sit in the parking lot for several minutes you’ll feel much more relaxed if you don’t have to rush. You do not want to show up late on your first day at a new site. There are no excuses that could erase the poor first impression of you arriving late to work on day one.
3. Take Notes
Bring a notebook with you on the first day so that you can jot down important information that the staff doctors will review with you. It is likely that they will be presenting you with a lot of information about the flow of the clinic, the types of exams that you’ll be performing, your schedule, what will be expected of you, important dates, etc. You’ll also probably be shadowing the first couple of days so that you can directly see how things work in that particular clinic. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking notes and then reviewing them at the end of the day. Your staff doctors will not want to have to review the same things over and over with you.
4. Ask Questions
It’s ok to admit that you don’t know understand something or that you need clarification on certain things. Ask a lot of questions during the first few days so that you fully understand everything that is expected of you during your rotation. Also make sure that you are familiar and comfortable with all of the equipment that you’ll be using, as it is going to be different in every clinic. This will only ensure that you are prepared and confident when it comes time to seeing your first patients at your new site.
Keep in mind that every rotation in your 4th year will be different, and some you will like better than others, but remember to take each day to learn something useful that will help you in your career to become a better doctor.
Good luck and enjoy every minute of your last year!