Article Date: 9/1/2002

reflections: THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Patience for Patients
A fateful after-graduation job prepared this O.D. for the special field she was about to enter.
BY TITIA MULDER, O.D.

I've been practicing optometry for more than 2 years now, and I thought I'd share a few experiences I had when I was a "newbee." My first job after graduation was working for an M.D. Fate must've put me there. The M.D. had no phoropters in his office, so I performed more than 800 trial frame refractions in the 4 months that I worked there. It was the perfect preparation for going into nursing home practice.

Great preparation for future endeavors

After I left the M.D.'s office, I worked for a company owned and operated by a Missouri O.D. that provides care to nursing home residents throughout the state. With my debt load, I couldn't afford to start my own office yet and I looked on this experience as paying my dues to the profession and as an chance to accumulate some good kharma.

One day at a nursing home in a rural Missouri town, I was dead tired and seeing my last patient. He was in his mid-80s and had a terrible speech problem, which was worsened because of his missing upper dentures (they really needed a dentist at this facility more than they needed me)!

I was digging deep to find the strength and patience to deal with him. Now and then I actually understood a few sentences. He said, "I won the Congressional Medal of Honor." He said something else, which he repeated many times until I understood, "We bombed Germany."

A local eye doctor saw him previously and I found his note in the record. He hadn't prescribed glasses, so I refracted the patient and wasn't able to improve his distance vision, which was around 10/25 or 10/30 because of macular degeneration. He obviously needed some reading glasses for his near vision, but he said that the last eye doctor told him he couldn't prescribe glasses. I asked if he'd like a pair and his face lit up with gratitude. I ordered him some +4.00 readers.

Panthers in Missouri?

At another facility, an 88-year-old woman told me a nice story. She said that when she was a little girl, she was her grandmother's companion. One day, they were riding back to their farm in a horse-drawn buggy, when the horse got spooked. She looked up and saw a panther in a tree beside the road. The horse ran home as fast as it could, totally out of control. The girl's father caught the horse and said to the grandmother, "Mother, are you trying to kill the old mare?" The grandmother replied, "No, she's trying to kill us." I never knew we had panthers in Missouri.

Who's afraid of a little rat?

Another group home facility was in a dilapidated old mansion in the North Central area of St. Louis. During one of my exams, as I was pointing to a letter on the eye chart, I heard scurrying and loud scratching coming from the wall beside me. My stomach lurched. I looked at the wall to see if there were any holes in it. I went back to my seat and heard more loud scratching in the wall behind me now. I said to my patient, "I think there's a rat in the wall." She said, I think so too." Then I said, "I hope it stays in the wall." She replied, "So do I." Luckily, she was calm and the rat stayed in the wall.

One thing I can say about this type of practice -- it's never boring. 

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: September 2002