Article Date: 5/1/2002

reflections:THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
A Dangerous Profession

A humorous perspective on the often unnoticed risks of working in the field of optometry.
BY MICHAEL C. BERNER, O.D., SAN DIEGO, CALIF.

In a world full of dangerous careers, I've discovered that only a scant number of professions match the risks we face in optometry every day. You think I'm kidding? Sure, some occupations are downright scary -- dyslexic nuclear reactor repairman and vocal coach for Bob Dylan are two that come to mind immediately -- but they just don't compare to the daily barrage of potential hazards that O.D.s encounter. Allow me to elaborate.

Living as light-deprived hypocrites

I'll begin with light deprivation. O.D.s spend too much time in dimly lit rooms instructing patients how to use adequate light when they work. Hello? How many ways can you spell U-R-A-HYPOCRITE?

But the really scary thing is that I've come to actually enjoy dim light. Spend enough quality time with a 25-watt light bulb and life becomes so much more . . . tranquil. I don't venture out much for lunch anymore. After all, there's sunlight out there! It's too bright and, let's face it -- I look so much better in dim light.

 

PHOTO BY PAT SIMIONE

Dealing with self-inflicted head injuries

Picture this: It's 1:30 p.m., I've finished lunch and I'm now waiting for Mrs. Jones (who still regrets not choosing lens number seven instead of lens number six back in 1994) to make a new choice. Want to see that choice again, Mrs. Jones? No problem. Here it is for the 19th time. Just give me a gentle nudge when you've made your final decision.

Now here's where the threat of head injuries is most prevalent. As my eyelids begin to feel like they have fishing weights attached to them, my clipboard slides off my lap and my forehead clangs against the phoropter while waiting for Mrs. Jones to make that last agonizing choice. It's amazing how fast those neck muscles relax when you drift off for an instant! I've now taken the unusual step of attaching some foam padding to my side of the phoropter to prevent further self-inflicted injuries. Patients view it curiously but I explain it's to protect the instrument in case of an earthquake -- after all, this is California.

When patients attack

Most of us practice optometry untrained in the art of self-defense. The pediatric patient somehow knows this and uses it to her advantage. I offer this case report from my own office:

Chrissy (not her real name) enters my exam room with her mother. She plops down in my exam chair, arms folded, ready for battle. After making a few notes, I turn toward Chrissy to begin my exam. Priding myself on being sensitive to children, I pull my exam stool a little closer and in a hushed, gentle tone I tell her that I'm going to check how her eyes are worki--YEEOOWW! Suddenly, I feel a sharp, searing pain in my leg.

Dazed and disoriented, I try to collect my thoughts as the room swirls around me. My yellowed diplomas blur as I look through a sea of reflex tearing. I realize that not-so-little Chrissy, with all the strength she could muster, has just kicked me as hard as she could in the shin!

"Chrissy, don't kick the nice doctor," the mother says, as if she were telling Chrissy not to litter anymore. It takes years of discipline not to overminus Chrissy by a few diopters.

Our so-called "safe" occupation has reduced me to a dark-adapted, head-injured, shin-grabbing hypocrite. I knew I should've chosen a safer career alternative -- like maybe a bungee jumping instructor. 

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH KAREN RODEMICH, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT AT (215) 643-8135 OR RODEMICHKF@BOUCHER1.COM.

 



Optometric Management, Issue: May 2002