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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

The first few days of my private practice rotation!

Good morning, readers! I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend.

I started my private practice externship rotation two weeks ago and just wanted to update all of you on how it's going and how it compares to my internship at The Eye Center. As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I decided to stay local in the Memphis area for our externships. I'll be spending the fall semester at Dr. Leroy Norton's private practice in south Memphis. Every private practice site is a little different depending on the specific office or the doctor, so the experience can vary from student to student. Dr. Norton actually practices in a similar way to how we see patients at SCO so the transition is going smoothly for me so far. The main difference is the volume of patients I am seeing each day. At SCO over the summer, I was seeing about 3-6 patients in a day. On my very first day working with Dr. Norton I saw 20! Just like when I was at SCO, I am still doing every part of the exam myself. There are no pre-testing technicians at Dr. Norton's office, there is no auto-refractor or NCT, and we dilate every patient. I love this about this site because it's helping me really reinforce my technical skills while also making me more efficient. At some private practice sites, the extern actually has their own schedule of patients for the day and maybe even their own exam room. Dr. Norton runs his externship a little bit differently: Dr. Norton and I work as a team on the same schedule. For example, we'll both start an exam at the same time. Sometime during the exam I'll step out of my exam room and we'll briefly discuss our findings with each other, then we'll either complete our own exam or switch patients for the remainder of the exam. This setup allows me to work with almost every patient on the schedule while also allowing me to participate in good clinical discussion with the doctor. At the end of the day, Dr. Norton and I sit down and briefly discuss every patient we saw that day. The discussions give me good insight into decision-making, how and why we chose the treatment plan that we did, and how certain things are managed in a private practice setting.

Once I began to feel comfortable with the equipment, computer system, and office itself, the transition started to go very smoothly for me. I love being busy all day and getting to use so many of my clinical skills on a regular basis. We see a lot of ocular and systemic disease, pre-op and post-op care, and comprehensive exams on a regular basis. Seeing 20+ patients on the schedule each day was a little scary at first, but I'm absolutely loving it and I'm learning so much every day! I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the semester at this site and I know I'll be a better clinician for it.

Soon it will be time for me to start preparing for Parts 2 and 3 of my National Boards, so I'll be sure to post an update on how that is going in a month or so! Thanks for reading and feel free to reply or message me if you have any questions about our 4th year externship rotations. Have a great weekend! -Lisa

at 9/8/16 | 0 comments