The Third Year Clinician

ICO blogger sitting in his exam lane, eager for the next patient, student clinician, IEI, Illinois Eye Institute

It has been a little over four months since I started working in the clinic on my own. My understanding of vision and eye disease has deepened dramatically. I’ve been learning about treating disease and vision abnormalities, rather than just learning about them. My Attendings have challenged me to use that knowledge to manage the ocular health and vision of patients. I’m finding that I enjoy the process more and more every day. It’s still difficult at times, and definitely time consuming, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m excited about the possibilities that await me once I graduate- but that’s a discussion for another time.

When I’m working in the IEI, I often introduce myself as a student clinician. At first, I used that introduction as a crutch- to justify my mistakes and minimize the embarrassment that might follow. In my mind, it made sense that a student would stumble when facing difficult diagnoses or forget to do certain tests.

I’ve found that, despite my introduction, the patients I work with still look to me for answers to their questions… and the great thing is, I can answer almost all of them confidently. I don’t make nearly as many mistakes as I did when I first started in clinic. Calling myself a “student clinician” has become less and less necessary.

I’ve noticed that the patients I work with treat me as if I am already a doctor. They already trust me to look out for them and do what I was trained to do, and I am honored to have that trust. I’ve slowly started to think of the patients as my own. I care about these patients as much as my Attendings do, and they inspire me to continue with my studies.

I went into optometry because I wanted to interact with people. I’ve had the opportunity to do so as a sales associate, bartender, tutor, mini theme park ride operator, and receptionist. In all the work that I’ve done, nothing has been as satisfying as being clinician, in service of others.

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