Practicing for Practicals: Who Makes the Best Patients?

With the next round of lab practicals inching closer, we first years must decide on how to study. There are basically four options: practicing with our classmates, practicing with family and friends, reading over the syllabus/rubric for the lab practical, and just winging it. The last two options aren’t good ones. Even though we have been practicing in lab, we’re not prepared for the pressure of someone breathing down your neck and grading you. Which means we need to decide who we’re going to practice on.

Practicing with Classmates

Pros
Tips and feedback: Other OD students may do something in a different (better) way and can help you on the areas that you are struggling with. They also (hopefully) know the rubric and can let you know what you missed.

No explanations: While you have to tell them why you are performing something, they won’t ask you a million questions about every little thing.

Time: They won’t take as long to answer questions, as they know you’re being timed and will make it about the same level of difficulty as the actual practical.

Convenience: You can always find another student to practice on. You can either sit in the Eyepod and wait, or walk across the street and knock on anyone’s door in the RC.

Answers: Other students know their stuff, so you can double check if you get the correct C/D, strabismus, etc.

Cons
Pressure: Other students know if you’re doing something wrong. While they will give you advice, you still want to look like you know what you’re doing in front of your peers.

Tips and feedback: Your classmates may do something in a different (worse) way. You may know that you’re actually in the right, but you will still have to be polite and shake your head (being Minnesota nice and all) or it could lead to a debate, and your patient might leave you.

You’re next: Nothing comes free, so be prepared to sit as patient. Definitely a con, unless you like bright lights in your eyes and checking to see if your strabismus is still there.

Practicing with Others

Pros
No pressure: Don’t worry, they’ll never know if you messed up (even if you realized it). Just act natural and don’t do it on your next patient. Also, if your patient is a close friend or family member, they’ve seen you embarrass yourself plenty, so relax and you’ll be fine.

Next patient, please: They’re not studying to be an optometrist, so you don’t need to sit as their patient. If you have a large family or lots of friends, just line them up and keep on practicing!

Variety: You can practice on a wide range of ages, and may see something that you wouldn’t regularly see on a classmate.

Eager patients: Your friends and family haven’t sat through five weeks of optometry lab and therefore haven’t done these tests yet, so they’ll be more willing to sit and let you practice on them.

Cons
Questions: Get ready to explain in a lot of detail what every test does. Even worse, be prepared to explain what all your findings are. For example, saying “Oh my gosh your C/D is huge!” might make your patient going into panic and rush to the ER.

Equipment: Unless you live at an optometrist’s office, you probably don’t have all the equipment you need (and the correct lighting). Therefore, you might not be able to practice distance VAs and lensometry.

Convenience: Unless you have close connections nearby, it may be difficult to find non-classmates to practice on. You may end up lugging home all of your equipment so you can practice during school breaks. Or if you’re lucky, you can catch Santa in the act as he’s delivering presents at your house and you can practice on him!

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