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Part III and Charlotte, NC

Good morning! I wrote last month describing how our externship rotations work and how we spend our 4th year of optometry school in a clinical setting. This month I'll go into more detail on something else we do during our 4th year: Part III of our National Boards. Part III is different from Part I and Part II in that we can each sign up to take it almost any time during our 4th year rather than taking it all at once with the rest of the class. It's also unique because every 4th year optometry student in the country has to travel to Charlotte, NC to take it. That's because it's a clinical/practical style exam with standardized patients and exam rooms and the NBEO wants to keep everything as standardized as possible by having us all take it at the national testing center. The exam itself consists of performing different parts of an eye exam in different stations to show that we are clinically competent and ready to see patients on our own after graduation. Most students choose to sign up for Part III during their in-house rotation at The Eye Center because SCO has two practice exam lanes for us to use when we are preparing for the exam.

My husband and I drove to Charlotte this past weekend and took Part III on Monday morning (see photo below!). We were prepared for the exam and everything went relatively smoothly for both of us, but it's a nerve wracking process and we are happy to have it behind us now! We won't get our scores back until January, but that time will go by quickly because we'll be busy with the holidays and our next Boards exam (Part II) in 3 short weeks!

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and a great start to the holiday season! Next time I write it will almost be Christmas and I will (hopefully) be finished with all three parts of our National Boards exams! Thanks for reading and feel free to email me if you have any other questions about 4th year or how Part III works.

-Lisa

at 11/17/16 | 0 comments

The First Few Months of Optometry School



Hey y'all! (It's already rubbed off on me ;))

I'm sorry for the delay in my post. It's been long overdue! As you may have seen on my previous post, I felt like time had flown prior to entering optometry school. However, I was oblivious to how quickly time would fly once first year began. As first years, we have already completed two midterm weeks, as well as two lab practicals. There is only one more finals week left and one more lab practical to go before the semester comes to a close.

I should start by telling you that I am amazed at how much information I have learned in such a short amount of time and how amazing it is that I'm actually able to retain most of it. Yes, it really is A LOT of information but what's wonderful is that our classwork tends to overlap among our classes so it makes it easier to learn and understand the material. In addition, basically everything we learn is relatable to our future career and that alone makes it much more interesting to pay attention to.

Like I said, it's amazing how much my classmates and I have learned in such a short amount of time. As stated before, we have already completed two lab practicals. Our lab practicals consist of skills we will need to learn for boards and our future careers as optometrists. Our first lab practical actually consisted of retinoscopy, which in my opinion, is the hardest skill we have had to learn, so far. I am not kidding when I tell you I genuinely thought I would never be able to conquer retinoscopy. However, even the tasks that seem most impossible in optometry school eventually become possible. I don't know how that is but it really is true. One of the most exciting parts about this first semester is that, within the last few weeks, we have officially gotten our hands on the phoropter and have learned how to complete a manifest refraction. That's actually what our final lab practical will cover, as well as a few other skills with the phoropter.

One thing that I find unique here at SCO is our midterm weeks. They are full weeks of exams rather than exams randomly scattered throughout the semester. I was a little worried about that before optometry school began but now I have realized that I actually prefer it this way. We still have quizzes and other assignments that keep us accountable for the material prior to exam week but it's nice to study really hard, get them all done around the same time and then have some time to relax when the exam week is over.

Thus far, the journey through optometry school has been so rewarding, exciting and fulfilling. I cannot wait to keep you all updated with my future endeavors at SCO.

Talk to you soon!

at 11/15/16 | 0 comments

Feeling Thankful



Happy (almost) Thanksgiving, everyone!

Fall semester is winding down, and I think I speak for a lot of my classmates when I say Thanksgiving break cannot get here soon enough! That being said, this semester has really been an enjoyable one for me. I’m finally feeling a little bit more confident in clinic, classes are interesting and manageable, and the weather in Memphis has finally cooled down a bit.

We just finished our second midterm week of the semester, and this will be our final one as 3rd years. Next semester, because of Boards, we will only do tests on a class-by-class basis. We will still have a finals week, but nothing in the middle of the semester. I must say, after 2.5 years of test weeks, I’m ready to be done with them. As a third year, we only have had 3 tests during the week (versus 7 as a 2nd year!), but our schedules are more hectic with clinic sometimes going until 7:00 in the evening the night before an exam. It will be strange to not have tests all at once next semester, but I think I will appreciate it since the majority of free time will be spent studying for boards anyway.

I am planning on flying home for Thanksgiving break next week, and beginning my boards studying at that time. We will all take it in March, and it’s a terrifyingly daunting task at this point. Everything we’ve learned since starting 2 years ago will be on the exam, and I’m hoping it will all come back to me once I start reviewing!

Thanks for following along with during this semester! I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on the next few weeks and the beginning of the NBEO process.

at 11/11/16 | 0 comments

How do 4th year extern rotations work?

This is a question I get a lot from prospective students. When you're just beginning optometry school, 4th year and clinical rotations seem so far away. It's hard to think past all the course work at the very beginning and to picture yourself seeing patients in a private practice somewhere as a 4th year. But the first three years flew by and now my class is spread out all over the country applying their clinical skills in a real-world setting. It's an exciting time and it makes graduation and becoming licensed optometrists not seem so far away anymore! I'll summarize how these rotations work and how the site selection process is set up. There is a lot that goes into it and the process can be a little complicated at times, but it is all worth it when you finally make it to that first rotation and start to really feel like an eye doctor. :-)

Fourth year at SCO is divided into the three regular semesters - summer, fall, and spring. Our rotations each last one full semester so fourth year is made up of three rotations that are about four months long each. Of these three rotations, one of them has to be in-house at The Eye Center at SCO, one has to be in a private practice setting, and one has to be in an institutional or more "hospital-based" setting. This gives us experience in three different settings so that we can experience them all firsthand to see what setting feels like the best fit for us. The three rotations can go in any order, and of course only one third of the class is on campus for their SCO rotation at a time.

So how does the selection process work? At the beginning of our third year we are provided with a list of sites. As I mentioned before, these sites are all over the country. We then get a few weeks to look into the sites we might be interested in, to read reviews from former students who rotated through those sites, and to decide when and where we would like to go. Some people choose to go to sites in their home state or in the state they plan to practice in, some go to cities they simply want to spend four months living in, and some choose to stay local in the Memphis area for the full year (there are plenty of options in Memphis). Then, the selection process begins. Students are given home state priority first (if you're from Texas, you get first dibs for the Texas sites), then class rank priority kicks in. So if you want a site in a state you aren't from but you're #1 in the class, you'll be next in line after the people from that state. Everybody tries to communicate and work together during this process so that people end up knowing if they will likely be matched with their first choice or not. We then submit our top 3 choices for each rotation and we find out a couple weeks later where we were placed.

My husband and I decided to stay in the Memphis area for our rotations so that we could be more flexible in terms of site and semester selection and not have to be apart right after getting married. I ended up choosing SCO in the summer, Leroy Norton Jr. Family Vision Center (private practice) in the fall, and Olive Branch Eye Care/Charles Retina (institutional) in the spring. Ben chose the Memphis VAMC (institutional) in the summer, Eyecare East (private practice) in the fall, and SCO in the spring. It's been fun being at different places and comparing our experiences so far. Every site is different and provides a different experience for the student, which is why the selection process is so important.

I hope this clears it up a little bit for any prospective students who may be reading this! Externships are a great experience and are so important in building our confidence and clinical skills and in helping us find the right fit for us professionally. I'm learning so much every day at my private practice site (I wrote a post specifically about it in September, you should be able to find it by scrolling down if you're interested!).

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment if you have any questions! Happy Thursday!

at 10/13/16 | 0 comments

Externship plans? Already?



Well, I’ve had two Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but it hardly feels like fall around here! Hopefully soon! I just finished my third week of fall semester and I’m really enjoying it so far. Summer semester was overwhelming, but it thankfully wrapped up nicely and easily.

One of the most exciting (also really stressful!) things to happen at the end of last semester was the finalization of our externship assignments. It is so bizarre for me to think that we only have two semesters left before fourth year, but figuring out our plans for next year definitely made it all much more real.

For those of you who don’t know, your fourth year consists of 3 rotations at different sites, each being 4 months long. One of them is required to be at The Eye Center, one has to be at a private practice, and one has to be at an institution. I will be doing SCO during the summer, a private practice in Pennsylvania (my home state) in the fall, and then the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs for my spring institution site. I am so excited to have gotten these sites and am thankful that I will get to finish out my schooling in these wonderful locations.

I can’t speak for all of my classmates, but I was lucky enough to get all of my top sites in my preferred semesters, and I think a lot of others were the same way. There weren’t options in every state or area, but there were a lot of different options. The externship office was also willing to let me set up my own site in PA, which is what I eventually ended up doing. You are given preference for your home state, so I was also lucky in the fact that I don’t have anyone else in my home state to compete with for sites here. There aren’t any Colorado students from my class either, so I didn’t really have to fight anyone for the Air Force site, either. That being said, I know that some of the students that wanted the very popular sites were able to work it out between them, and I think the process ended up going smoothly. It was stressful to wait to hear about final decisions, but I think the externship office does a good job overall of making sure everything is fair.

Well, that’s a very long-winded explanation of the externship process! I hope I didn’t make it too confusing for any of you. It’s crazy for me to think that I will be done with my time in Memphis by next fall, but I’m looking forward to all of the challenges and milestones ahead. Now, I think I’ve earned myself another PSL :)

at 9/21/16 | 0 comments