As an optometry student, I find myself wondering “What is it that I want to do?”. The best way to approach this question is to evaluate what we discussed in class today. If you are familiar with NFOA, you will remember how they break down the career options into four categories: patient care, management & administration, research and education. To make your decision easier, they categorize them into two types of practice styles: full-scope and ocular disease/specialty. Full-scope optometry includes general practice (ophthalmic & primary care), community eye health programs and vision rehabilitation programs. Ocular disease/specialty includes glaucoma and retina specialty clinics as well as practices specializing in diagnosing and treating eye diseases like macular degeneration or strabismus.
We focused on general practice for the most part during my first year of college because this is where we see most of our patients in clinicals (except for those doing some elective rotations at a specialty clinic). There are many different aspects of general practice that students can focus on such as contact lenses or refractive surgery (this school tends more toward contact lenses since Dr. I wore my cool-looking glasses and Dr. L wore her contact lenses… I wonder if they ever switch? Haha).
I have found that what I care about most is the patient. This might not come as too much of a surprise for everyone who has already known me for quite some time, but it’s the truth! We talked about how there are two ways to approach the patient: either with technique or with empathy. Technique is important because it ensures that you are doing your job correctly, but empathy is so important because you want to make sure that the patient feels like they can trust you and open up to you as someone they can rely on (that’s why we wear those super dorky white lab coats haha).
What really inspires me about optometry is helping people lead better lives through vision correction! Going back to my initial question of “What do I want in my career?”, this is exactly what I have been trying to find. As optometrists, we can provide care to help people avoid the burden of vision loss, which is so important to those who are visually impaired. I am so passionate about this because it is not just a job for me: it’s something that I want to do. It’s my mission in life!
I’ve also found some other really cool things about optometry that made me fall in love with it even more. For one thing, we have great relationships with our patients because they come back every year for their annual check-up! (I know… this statement may sound crazy and completely obvious; however, there are lots of doctors out there who don’t see their patients as often as we do). We also work closely together as a group and collaborate on the same cases which helps us be better at what we do since we learn from each other.
Now for a bit of health care economics. Health care systems are changing, and we need to adapt to meet the needs of our patients. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was created to ensure that everyone has access to affordable health insurance, but there are still some problems with this system which will require optometrists to step up and help guide the way forward. There is a growing epidemic of vision loss and eye disease in America. We have seen this trend increase over the last few years because more people are living longer lives by preventing other serious conditions like heart disease or cancer; however, they neglect their vision which leads them into these situations where they need care from us as optometrists! This is why I believe it’s important for us as students to learn how this system works so that we can guide our future patients in making better decisions about their health (which affects everything else!).
One thing that I’ve always wondered about is how my life would be different if I could see perfectly well just because my astigmatism wasn’t too bad.
I was surprised to learn that I am almost done with my first year of college! It went by so fast! All the things I’ve been learning have really helped me grow as a person, and they have started to shape me into the man that I want to be. This is why it’s so important for us as students in optometry school (and all other professional schools) to continue learning throughout our lives, because we’ll never know everything there is to know about what we do. Knowledge is power, and an open mind/heart makes you a more interesting person than if you were closed off.
I hope this post was helpful for everyone who reads it! If you are an optometry student or just considering becoming one yourself, please let me know how I did in the comments below. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again for reading all of this!