By Daniel Epshtein, OD, FAAO
August 28, 2019
Learning is a lifelong process, which is especially evident in optometry where patient care is constantly evolving. Throughout my young career I have been lucky to have many great mentors, both within optometry school and after graduation.
Here are three questions to ask the more seasoned ODs you work with. You may be surprised at how much your more-experienced peers can teach you clinically, in doctor-patient relations and in professional development.
Which patient encounter has been the most impactful to your career?
We all have patient encounters that we can’t forget, sometimes due to the case’s difficulty and sometimes due to the patient’s personality. Often, these cases act as eureka moments that can change how you grow as an optometrist.
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As young ODs, we are frequently caught up in correctly diagnosing a patient and creating the proper treatment plan. By talking to more accomplished ODs, I learned early in my career that it is often the management of the individual that is most difficult. This occurs with glaucoma patients where the diagnosis is often straight forward due to the use of technologies such as OCT and visual field.
Sometimes we might blow by the discussion of glaucoma with the patient because to us it seems like such a common disease “that everyone knows about.” We may forget the fear and anxiety that patients feel when they are given a new diagnosis, especially one that is potentially blinding.
With experience, we become great diagnosticians, but the empathetic care of our patients can fall by the wayside if we do not stay vigilant in the way we render our care.
What is the most important article that you have recently read?
During optometry school, we are lucky to be surrounded by world-class professors who share cutting-edge research with us on a daily basis. Once you graduate it may be difficult to keep up with the overwhelming amount of research published daily.
Asking accomplished ODs what they think is the most important recent article helps new ODs figure out what is important in the “real world” and what trends we should be looking out for.
I was lucky to train at SUNY Optometry, and even luckier to have the chance to ask Richard Madonna, OD, this question. He recommended an article discussing the optic disc margin as determined by OCT versus funduscopy. This article may not have been the most important article at the time, but it was one that I am grateful that he recommended.
It changed the way I thought about our clinical observations of ocular structures. It made me realize the discordance between how we visualize anatomy and how we image it with OCT, and made me question which we should use in our clinical diagnoses.
This thought has continued to linger with me as we integrate more technologies into our everyday clinic and slowly change our treatment paradigms.
Since practice guidelines often trail research, it is important to keep abreast of the latest information that can help us care for our patients
How do you make sure that you do not burn out?
Burnout among health-care providers is a hot topic, and one that we should all be aware of. We will all hopefully have long careers in optometry, so it is important to learn how to keep loving the profession that we chose.
As new graduates, it may sometimes be difficult acclimating to the workforce after many years in school. Maintaining a proper work-life balance, which is different for every individual, can help ensure that your first (and second and third) step into the workforce is an easy one.
Being close to my fifth year of practice, I have already had discussions with my fellow classmates about how difficult it seems to keep working 5-6 days a week for decades to come. Some of us already feel like we are ready for retirement!
Speaking to more seasoned ODs, who have already gone over these humps in their careers, can help put you on the right track and ensure that you are well equipped for the long run.
Even just hearing that others have gone through this “quarter-life crisis,” and came out unscathed, can help put your career in perspective. Tips for maintaining a work-life balance, especially as life becomes more complicated with marriage, kids, and/or mortgages can greatly improve the quality of your life.
The best advice that I’ve gotten is “the days are long, but the years are short” and to make time for seasonal activities. We all know that we have to make time for important events like weddings and anniversaries because you can’t relive them, but we often forget about seasonal activities, such as skiing, that cannot be pushed off for too long. If you wait too long to go on that ski trip you might miss the season and have to wait till next year!
Missing out on hobbies that make you happy can lead to burnout and deplete your love for the profession that you worked so hard and long to become a part of. Having something to look forward to every few months can help motivate you to complete work and errands in a timely manner.
How have you learned from your more-experienced colleagues? What key questions have you asked to give you information that helped you to become a better OD?
Daniel Epshtein, OD, FAAO, practices at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital and at an independent practice in New York. Previously he worked at a high-volume, multi-specialty practice where he provided refractive, medical and perioperative care. He combines his research experience with the latest clinical practices to provide the best possible care for his patients. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org