Sometimes, when I’m working with a patient, it suddenly occurs to me how natural it feels to perform my clinical skills. I don’t claim to be perfect at everything I do. I am far from the best, and watching my attendings demonstrate their mastery over slit lamp and BIO humbles me even on my good days.
Although I have a long way to go, one thing is starting to become clear. Everything I’ve learned so far at ICO is coming together. All the time I spent studying in first year formed the foundation for the skills and clinical knowledge that followed in second year, and my third year has heavily emphasized patient care and bringing what I learned in class into the exam room.
My first solo run as a student clinician began six weeks ago. I’d learned my lesson after second year. I didn’t walk into Suite 1 expecting to discover a natural talent for working with patients, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I would make as many mistakes. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure things out when I should have asked for help. There have been times where I’ve missed things that I felt should have been completely obvious. Moments like these made me doubt my ability, but these are just hiccups on the long, winding road to mastery. I inspire myself by remembering why I chose optometry.
I don’t always live up to my own expectations. It has been frustrating, to say the least, but these experiences have strengthened me. As long as I take criticism constructively rather than personally, and as long as I put in the time to practice, research, or look over notes, I can learn. I can become a better clinician. That is something I can take pride in.
As the weeks have passed by, I’ve made fewer mistakes. I find that I am regaining the confidence that I lost, and this time, it is a confidence built upon experience and sweat. Moments of disappointment have slowly given way to moments of self respect. I’m starting to realize that, although I can’t answer every question that my attendings ask, I can answer many of them. I can understand the conversations going on around me. Clinical language that at one time sounded so foreign to me now leaves my lips as if I’ve known it my entire life. I know what to do. I’ve found that my attendings trust me, not as a student, but as a colleague in-training. The best part is, my interactions with patients reassures me that I am where I am supposed to be.
I’m beginning to find a flow, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Clinic has proven to be challenging. There have been ups and downs, and I’m sure there will be many more in the future. You just have to keep your head up and refuse to let setbacks define you.
Keep going, you’ll do great.