Thoughts on Leaving Ophthalmology

First of all, ophthalmology is a difficult word to spell. This you will learn on your first day. However, I guess it could be worse, otolaryngology comes to mind. To keep things simple, I’m and eye doctor’s assistant who works in the eye clinic; but not for much longer.

I was hit recently with the overwhelming emotions that come with doing something for the last time EVER: sadness, elation, nostalgia, happiness. It’s not that I’ve never quit anything before — soccer and clarinet come to mind — coincidentally I participated in each of those for 8 years. It certainly is the end of an era, but an important part of my life as a young professional that is sure to follow me as I move on in my career.

IMG_0277 To even be considered as a candidate for PA school admission, I had to have clinical healthcare experience. Over the past 6 years, I have spent day after day examining the eyes of anywhere from 2 to 28 patients/day. This work has inspired me to go farther with my education so that I can continue to serve patients in a greater capacity. It’s taken a lot of work to get where I am today.

One of the hardest parts about starting a new job is the time it takes to get comfortable in the position. In my experience, it usually takes about one year for me to really ease into the job and to let go of all my anxiety about “not knowing enough.”

This was especially true in the position I’m currently leaving. Three years ago, during my interview for the hospital, I made promises to learn many new examination skills. I struggled a lot to catch up. The learning curve was very steep! Especially due to the fact that my manager believed that everyone should know how to do everything (not an easy thing for the lowest man on the Totem pole to hear). I finally cut myself a break when I realized that I was doing the same work as a 1st year ophthalmology resident. This occurred to me on the day I was required to attend a medical school lecture given by my boss. However, with hard work comes great pride, and I felt like a rock star (eventually).

It seems like a shame that I have skills that will not be used again like determining a person’s glasses prescription, measuring motility through prisms, testing 3D vision. At other times it feels like a relief that I will never again have to perform a Humphrey visual field (aka watch someone’s eye position in the dark for 20 minutes), clean a rack of lenses, or tell an impatient family that the eye drops takes 40 minutes to work. But, I will miss my awesome drawer of fixation toys, getting to put a sticker on my nose and moo like a cow to get a child’s attention, and putting glasses on a child for the first time.

Is this a great toolbox or what?

Is this a great toolbox or what?

I will definitely miss my coworkers. After I was hired, we eventually acquired two more technicians. We have gotten close and can relate to the struggles and joys of the job. Our orthoptists are incredibly knowledgeable and excellent teachers. The front desk staff has always kept it real and kept it fun. Working with 8 different attending physicians makes you quick on your feet. Learning their quirks takes time but it’s so nice when you can really get it the groove working with them. This relationship has revealed to me how important it will be to find a good supervising physician.

One of the first pieces of equipment that we are required to buy for the PA program is an ophthalmoscope. So, I’m pretty grateful to have one subject area firmly under my grasp as I begin my studies. Many people have asked me if I’ll return to ophtho. While I don’t want to close the door to that possibility completely, I don’t see it as a good fit for PA work. There is already a large network of allied professionals in place – optometrists, orthoptists, technicians and nurses. What I have learned is that I love working with kids and (for the moment) am leaning toward pediatrics. Parents have told me that I’m good with kids and I have a lot of patience. I really don’t mind the crying either. We shall see… I’m keeping an open mind for what PA school has in store.



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