A Day in the Life

Some of you may be interested to know how the day of an average optometrist pans out. Some of you may not, in which case best to stop reading now.

Needless to say, different practices will have differing concepts of an “average” day and this can vary widely especially based on location. When I worked in rural Victoria I was generally fully booked out all day, erry day, at least a few weeks in advance. Today, at my part-time metro practice job, I have seen one patient in the last three and a half hours (which is why I have time to now write this post).  

We’ll start with getting out of bed.

Dear Diary,

This was difficult. For the first time that I can remember, I actually skipped breakfast to be able to sleep in for an extra 20mins. However, this has backfired in the way that I became unbearably hungry by 11am and so went to get a sandwich and now I am too full to eat my packed lunch when it comes to lunchtime. I regret this and will try to learn from my poor decisions in the future. #firstworldproblems

For most of the morning I pottered aimlessly around the clinic. A great deal of time was spent researching and discussing window blinds and curtain options with my colleagues for my new house. I have decided on Roman blinds, probably in a light taupe or ivory colour. Not sure what my fiancé has decided but I feel that is probably irrelevant.

I think I answered the phone a few times, mostly to cancel or reschedule appointments. Reception desk duties are not in my job description but sometimes we get entertaining phone calls, like a woman who phoned earlier this week to complain that our metropolitan centre is too inconvenient to get to from regional Victoria. Luckily I wasn’t the one who answered that call because I am not sure how I would have responded (just go elsewhere, lady).

My one patient this morning was a friendly 33 year old, attending for his first eye test in a couple of decades. He has latent hyperopia and is now struggling for reading tasks so I explained to him how hyperopia works in young patients, which is always a complicated conversation, and we have organised glasses from him. Also complicated to explain is that his spectacles are technically a long distance prescription but will help him most for near work. For the most part, it was a pretty straightforward examination.

Sometimes I get patients who are just difficult. These include the ones who continuously complain of the same problems but also refuse to comply with the treatment I recommend, or the ones who question everything I say but not in a “oh this is so interesting, tell me more” sort of way, more like a “you’re short and female and look like you should still be in high school; I don’t believe you” sort of way (usually from middle-aged male engineers). There’s this one test called tonometry, which measures the intraocular pressure of the eye. It does this by blowing a puff of air at the patient’s eye and I always explain the purpose of this test and what to expect. For some reason, about 4 out of 10 patients will ask immediately after I’ve done the puff, “What’s this do?”. Sometimes they ask the question immediately after I’ve told them tonometry is to measure the pressure inside the eye. I am not sure how to rectify this ongoing problem.

Every now and then I get a really interesting patient, which is usually one with a disease. The most exciting patients have been with retinal detachments or papilloedema and I’ve had to urgently refer them away. I also enjoy seeing the patients that I feel I’ve made a big difference for, even for something as dull-sounding as dry eye or mild eye strain when reading. Successful multifocal contact lens fits are also pretty satisfying.

My job sometimes involves paperwork. This is usually a report to a patient’s GP after they have attended for their diabetic consultation but can also be a new referral letter to an ophthalmologist or a report to the ophthal about a mutual patient of ours. I like writing letters because I think it’s important for the relevant healthcare practitioners to all be kept in the loop about shared patients. I also like receiving letters but I haven’t gotten many recently and this makes me a little sad.

Occasionally I get visits from contact lens company reps, but very rarely do I enjoy these as they’re often telling me things I’m not interested in, like how their lens is so much more “lubricious” than all the others on the market  (they can’t all be the most lubricious). I don’t mind getting invitations to their launch nights as this usually involves a free dinner, but it still doesn’t make me interested in their mind-blowingly lubricious lenses.

Hmm, what else have I done today? I helped bring in the recycling bins from the footpath and bought coffees for the reception staff. That’s probably about it. It will be more fun after lunch where I have more patients to see. I have a 14 year old girl, which will hopefully be fun (teenagers can be a bit hit and miss), two patients with old sounding names, and a diabetic.

Well done if you’ve read this entire post, I’m impressed. I promise optometry is generally more exciting than what my day has been today but some days are just less exciting than others as I’m sure is the case with all professions.



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