When spring quarter had begun and course syllabi were delivered to our mailboxes, I became aware that by the end of our first year, we’d all learn to complete a patient refraction and be able to write prescriptions for refractive error. In a typical visit to an optometrist, determining a patient’s prescription through refraction is half of the exam and what most people think an eye appointment entails. The phoropter had always stood atop the pedestal of optical instruments as a device I dreamed of working. Now, with just weeks left in this school year, I’m close to knowing the ins and outs of a phoropter like the back of my hand.
During clinical education lab (or what everyone calls “optometry”) this quarter, one skill was taught each week and built upon with a different skill the next week. We started off with keratometry, which was not difficult in practice, and struggled with “with” and “against” streaks in retinoscopy. We then learned how to dial in power and start making clincal decisions in manifest refraction and then stabilize vision in binocular and duochrome balancing. Manifest refraction includes four main steps to determine and refine a patient’s prescription for refractive error. Before the year ends, we’ll work on clinical efficiency and on perfecting our skills. In no time at all we’ll be taking our retinoscopy and refraction practicals (in about a week!) to assess our technique and inch even closer to our optometry educational goals. My refracting skills need more work, but soon I hope they’ll be perfected.