Here it comes…Graduation

Hold onto your seats fellow fourth years. This opto train is about to make its final stop and the destination is called Graduation.  In these final days, nostalgia has crept it’s way in and we can’t help but reflect upon our time as students. Let’s talk about the word ‘

Let’s talk about the word ‘student’ for a hot second. For many of us, this term has been our identifier for more than just the past four years. It has provided a sense of security because it is synonymous with “still learning” or “mistakes allowed”. We can

We can play student; that role has been well-established. Now, we will be transitioning to ’doctors’ which is unchartered territory, my friends. For the first time, we will have complete authority where the final–maybe only–medical decision is ours.

Being a doctor means no 75% effort because the attending is going to re-check your work anyways; we have to be 100% on every day of patient care because the liability is 100% ours. Now, if that intimidates you even the slightest, you’re right where you should be and, you’re not alone.

The Past Four Years…

If the past four years have taught us anything it’s that patients don’t present with textbook diagnoses. There probably came a time…or five…in each of our clinical experiences where we had the ‘huh’ moment. It’s when a patient presents with a completely unknown diagnosis, you have no idea how to correlate the clinical signs to the symptoms, and forming a treatment plan seems like a distant fantasy. 

I wonder, will that change once we become doctors? Will there be some kind of a magical epiphany which provides us with all the answers? OD consensus says: likely no. 

While the unknown makes us uncomfortable, what can ease some of the anxiety is to realize that we remain in a tightly knit profession where answers can sometimes be one Facebook post away ;). Ask any practicing OD out there about their own ‘huh’ moment(s) and they will tell you that the questioning does not stop no matter what the stage of your career. The only difference between their approach and ours at this time is experience.

Looking Back

I remember my first day of Berkeley when a professor presented us with a task which seemed like an impossible feat. “Fill in as many structures about the eye as you know,” he said.

For choosing optometry as my profession of choice, it was quite shocking how little I knew about the eye. Words like pars plana and choroid were not within the realm of my vocabulary so identifying them was out of the question.

What I didn’t realize then was that the purpose of this task wasn’t to shame us on how much we didn’t know. It was to enlighten us about how much knowledge was about to be learned and the personal and professional growth to come over the next four years.

Take Time to Reflect

Take a minute to go back to your first day of intern patient care before you arrive at your last. Think about how a simple two years of experience has helped you navigate a steep learning curve. Or better, go back to your clinic during the last few days before graduation and take a look at the incoming third years who are about to begin summer patient care.

Note the difference in confidence and understanding of patients between you and them. Sometimes it’s hard to see how far we’ve come without looking back at where we’ve been. Completing four years of a rigorous program, passing 3 sets of national boards, countless exams and practicals is no easy task.

Graduation marks the end of the beginning of our career as optometrists. So, fight that bubbling case of senioritis and get excited about the challenging and eventful career that lays ahead of you. 

See you all on the other side!