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SCO Student Makayla Porter, ’21, writes about the externship experiences in her fourth year:
Things are winding down in the final days before graduation – less than a month to go! My time in school honestly flew by so quickly, and it’s crazy to think about how much I’ve learned in the past 4 years.
While the classroom work done during the first three years of school had a large part in preparing me to become a practicing optometrist someday, the thing that has prepared me the most has been by far my clinical experiences - specifically, my externship rotations completed during my fourth (and final!) year. During your fourth year at SCO, you spend each semester gaining full-time experience in three different settings: The Eye Center at SCO, a private practice rotation, and an institutional rotation.
My first rotation in the summer of fourth year was a multi-doctor private practice. During this rotation, I was able to work alongside different doctors and gain insight into the various ways in which each doctor practiced and handled certain situations. I chose a busy practice that was in a rural setting and saw a wide variety of exams including post-surgery, disease management, emergent walk-ins, and routine exams. During this rotation, I learned so much about the treatment and management of various ocular conditions, but I also learned a ton regarding practice management including staffing, budgets, protocols, optical inventory and management, efficiency, and so much more. This was a great opportunity to learn more about what mode of practice I was interested in, in addition to learning about patient care.
My next rotation during the fall was back at The Eye Center at SCO. Even though I had already spent a lot of time in clinic as a second and third year at SCO, l gained a lot of new knowledge and experiences during this semester. In your fourth year, you get to work in clinics that you don’t typically during prior years, such as Contact Lens, Pediatrics, Ocular Disease, and more. These clinics really give you a lot of experience in specialized areas that you might not get a lot of in otherwise. It was really interesting and educational to see patients with various disease presentations and specific needs.
Lastly, my spring rotation (which I am currently nearing the end of) is at a VA Optometry Clinic. This was by far the most challenging and educational of them all. I wanted to challenge myself for my last rotation, so I chose a very busy, fast-paced, and ocular disease-heavy site. As difficult as this semester has been, I have grown so much in my abilities as a doctor in various different ways including efficiency, diagnosis, disease management, skill level, and more. I highly recommend choosing a site that will challenge you and push you to learn more about areas of eye care that do not come easy to you.
Overall, externships are a great experience that can help you grow into a knowledgeable, confident, and efficient Doctor of Optometry – at least more so than when you started! My biggest advice is to take care in the sites that you choose, and do not be afraid to choose a site that will challenge you! Comfort is nice but putting yourself in a situation that forces you to learn and grow is invaluable.