Whether you are just beginning your first year of optometry school spending most of your timef shadowing in clinic or you are in your fourth year at your external clinical rotation sites, we’ve come up with several tips to help you excel in clinic and impress your staff doctors!
Be on Time
One of the most important things you can do every single day in clinic is to be on time and ready for patient care. It’s not fair to the patients, the staff, other students, and the doctors if you show up late and throw off the entire day’s schedule. Better yet, show up early so that you are completely prepared! Have your equipment set up and be ready to go well before your first patient arrives. Your staff doctors will notice that you are dedicated to learning by just completing this simple task every day.
Review Your Patient Charts
Prior to your scheduled clinic days, take some time to review the records for those patients who are scheduled to see you over for the next week. Have a game plan ready for all of the testing that you may need to have completed on your patients during their examinations. If you are unsure of some of the possible signs or symptoms that you should be looking for based on their prior diagnoses, look up the diseases in your notes or books. Make sure you know what the ocular side effects are of the medications they are taking. Review how to interpret the tests that you’ll be performing on them. Have a plan for the next contact lens trials to try in case they are having problems with their last set, etc. Not only will you be more efficient during their exam, your preceptor will be impressed by your preparation. Lastly,you’ll feel more confident and relaxed as clinic will run so much smoother for you when you are fully organized.
It’s imperative to make a good impression on your attending doctors and show them respect at all times. Some of them may seem more intimidating or less approachable than others, but as long as you act professionally and courteous towards them, they should treat you in the same manner. Remember they are the ones you’ll go to for help, they will be writing letters of recommendation for you, and they will determine if you pass or fail clinic. Throughout your four years, there will be some departments or rotation sites you prefer over others, and some doctors you like working with more, but try not to complain about it, it will only reflect poorly on you.
One quick and easy way to impress your staff doctors is to stay organized. One way that a lot of students do this is by keeping a notebook to jot down questions to ask of their attending doctors and notes about interesting patients they see during their clinical rotations. Students also often make summary sheets about interpreting tests or treatments for common conditions you’re likely to encounter in clinic. You will also likely need to keep a brief log of all patients you see for your school (especially while out on rotation); don’t wait until the last minute to try to compile all of this information!
The need for this advice varies greatly by optometry school as most schools have some sort of dress code for entering the clinic, or even class, from the very beginning. No matter what your school recommends, keep in mind that is important to present yourself as a professional at all times. Do your hair, wear clean and pressed clothing, and put on nice (but comfortable) shoes. If you’re looking good, you’ll feel more confident in yourself!
Be a Team Player
It’s important to support your classmates and work together. If you get done with your work early, ask your classmates if they need help instead of leaving early. You’ll appreciate the team atmosphere on those days when you need assistance, and your attending doctors will notice your extra hard work.
Practice Communication Skills
No matter how excellent of a clinician you are, patient communication and education are some of the most important skills that you'll need as an optometrist. This is how patients know that you care, this is why they will trust you, and this is the key reason that they will decide to follow your recommendations. Think about the most common questions that you get asked on a regular basis and come up with well-thought-out answers that are easy to understand. This will help you be confident when it comes to explaining diagnoses and treatments to your patients.
Your time in clinic is meant for you to learn and practice skills. When opportunities come up to use your gonioscope, insert punctal plugs, or perform lacrimal dilation and irritation, seize the day and jump right in! Practice makes perfect as many techniques as you can with the experts looking over your shoulder. When a patient with new onset of flashes and floaters shows up on the schedule, call dibs! Challenge yourself even if it means a little more work for you now, it will be a great comfort when you are out on your own to know you’ve already performed that procedure or seen a case like that before. Trust us, your staff doctors will definitely notice!