Half way through our second year, the class of 2016 has had plenty of experience in lab. By now, we’re all comfortable with practically pressing our faces together for Direct Ophthalmoscopy, or contorting the faces of our patients to get a good look for BIO. I’d like to give a few pointers on simple etiquette in lab that we’ve all learned since first year. Some of this may seem obvious, but as we get more comfortable and get into a routine, we often fall into bad habits unconsciously. On top of that, some people may not feel comfortable correcting you. This makes it even worse, because as you cross over and become an OD, these habits stick with you and could affect your patients’ experience, and determine whether or not they return or find somewhere else to go.
Quick disclaimer: I’m not saying I’ve necessarily experienced every item on this list this first hand. Some of this comes from joking around with classmates, casual conversation or just common sense.
As a Student Clinician
Breath through your nose
Even if you have the freshest of breath, the warm sensation of someone else’s breath hitting your face is not pleasant! This goes for the entire exam–even if you’re relatively far away from the patient, say, behind the slit lamp. This is a tough one for mouth breathers like myself! I always have to be conscious of this, but I think it’s become routine by now.
We all have busy days and we’re often rushing to get lunch down before lab or clinic. I keep a travel toothpaste and brush with me at school. Mints or hard candy could work too, as long as you haven’t just scarfed a PB&J sandwich and washed it down with a mug of coffee!
Wash your hands
Regardless of whether or not you’re touching the patient, even a whiff of what you could’ve been snacking on before lab can be off-putting. This helps keep the equipment clean as well.
If a classmate agrees to sit for you, either plan on sitting for them afterwards or set up a time for it. At the very least, make the offer, and thank the student once you’re done!
Let the patient know you’re going to touch/pull on their lid or eye. As classmates all learning the same thing and practicing numerous times in lab, we know what to expect. Don’t let this translate while seeing patients in clinic! Always let patients know what to expect, even if it’s just a slight tug on their lid during a slit lamp exam.
As a Patient
You don’t have to quietly suffer in the exam chair if you’re uncomfortable, be it due to the position of the chair or level of light. This also benefits the technique of the student clinician and the comfort of their future patients. I’m definitely guilty of this–I want to be the perfect, easy patient who can withstand blinding light and a gonio lens smashing my eye, but not all patients will be so easy. In the long run, you may be doing a disservice to a student clinician by not saying anything.
So far I’ve had a great time in lab and clinic with my classmates and patients! Is there anything that you would add to this list?