As my third year comes to an end, I get a chance to look back and think about how great my clinical internship at UIWRSO was. During your first and second years, you are so busy trying to do well in your classes and sharpen your skills to prepare for clinic. Once you are there, however, everything changes! You rely on your skills that you have practiced countless of hours on, but you learn the most once you are giving examinations to real patients and interacting with your preceptors.
To be completely honest, your first day of clinical internship is so scary. You go through a few days of training and orientation before you actually begin, but it’s a lot of vague information just so you have a foundation to what you need to do once you start. They give you tips on how to use the EMR (electronic medical record), the dos and don’ts in the clinic, and also how to use some of the equipment that you only used a few times before (OCT, Visual Field, etc.).
The night before we started I could barely sleep; I was so anxious! At the moment, our school has two different schedules for third years: you either have Monday and Thursday clinic, or Tuesday and Wednesday clinic, seeing about 5 patients a week with 2 hours of optical experience. We started school (the summer semester) and clinic on the same day! Talk about rough! We also have different locations we go to, either at our school at the Datapoint Eye Clinic, or our two other locations, Bowden Eye Clinic and another clinic on the West side of town. I was happy that I was at the Datapoint clinic, which I was the most familiar with at the time.
At 9:30 am, I showed up to the area where we (my clinic mates and I) were to set up. My hands were shaking so vigorously as I pulled out the equipment I needed from my kit. I am generally not so nervous unless it is time for a proficiency or something of that nature, so you can probably imagine the type of stress this felt like to me! We logged into the EMR and saw that a few patients were ready. For the first day of clinic, the preceptors allow you to work in a pair, so it’s not as intimidating. Two hours are allowed for each patient’s exam, which you definitely need for the first few weeks in clinic. My partner and I walked into the waiting room, picked up the paper with our patient’s name on it and I started thinking, “What if I pronounce their name wrong? What if they don’t like me?” I called out the patient’s name, and luckily a smile ran across their face as they followed us into the exam room.
I honestly can’t remember much about my first patient encounter, other than he was a very nice, older gentleman who was extremely patient with us. We had had some training on ICD9 codes (what you need to bill their insurance), but it was so new to us and nerve wrecking with the patient in the room that I am surprised we had finished everything within two hours! You are not used to using all of your skills in one sitting, and checking in with preceptors frequently, either, so it was a fast-learning environment.
A few weeks in, and it became routine like the back of my hand. Just like with anything, practice makes perfect. The amount of information you receive and pick up from your preceptors, your clinic mates, and even your patients is incredible during the 11 months you are in clinic at UIWRSO. Even though I am about to leave to fourth year externships, I feel like I have even more to learn from outside preceptors and locations. I am so grateful for the experiences and knowledge I have learned over this past year, and the feeling that I will be happy doing this for the rest of my life overjoys me!