The Ballet of Optometry

For my birthday, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to the Nutcracker. Unfortunately, it was probably a bigger surprise to him; he didn’t realize it was a ballet!

As the first act started, I watched the little mice dance around the house. I was amazed at how such little children can be so talented, and how they can remember all the dance moves they have to do. Of course, getting in front of five people for a presentation makes me feel sick, so I was never a performer. I started thinking about all the practice these dancers, young and old, must put into this show before opening night. Do they even have to think about what they are doing, or have they memorized it so well that they are tuned out to the fact that they are in front of hundreds of people?

These questions made me think about performing an eye exam. By no means is performing an eye exam as tiring as performing a ballet, but in a sense, we optometrists are doing a dance. I remember practicing for my entrance tests practical my first year at ICO. An older student told me to get into a routine, make a playlist of the exams, and by the time the practical happened, I wouldn’t even have to think of what to do next. He told me to group similar exams that use the same tools together, so that you have a more fluid movement and there are no awkward pauses for your patient.

This year, while practicing for the Slit Lamp Exam, it was the same thing. I made a routine, and had a more fluid way to perform the tasks. When I was in the middle of my panic attack (Don’t Panic) at the beginning of first year, I was worried that I would freeze in front of my patients (again, I am very shy,) but someone told me that I should think of it as acting. Some of the best actors have very bad anxiety and are shy. They told me to walk into the exam room and play the role of the doctor, and then when I left the exam room, I could be shy once again. As I’ve learned my “performance,” I’ve become more relaxed when performing the tasks. It has become much easier than when I first began.

Watching the Nutcracker reminded me that we aren’t so different from these dancers. While at school, we are learning the routine and practicing. We are learning what to do if we fall out of balance, and need to do a different test. Once we are in the real world, we will be performing for our patients every day. I think that we should remember we are just as amazing as those little mice (just maybe not as fit).

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