Both before and during optometry school, many of us will have worked many jobs, some related to optometry, and some unrelated.
No matter the job however, you can always take a piece of wisdom from each situation. Here are some of the jobs I've worked before optometry school, and how they contributed to my knowledge of this profession.
You can spend a good portion of your time catering to the needs of customers (patients) and most people will be perfectly happy. Most people. Here's part of an actual conversation I had on the phone one evening:
"I got a Cold Cut footlong about an hour ago and it had too much mustard on it. Can I get another sub?"
"Sure, just bring it in with the receipt and I’ll make up another one.”
“I already ate it.”
“I was hungry so I ate it when I got home, but it had too much mustard on it.”
Lesson learned: You can send people home happy but regrets can surface later. Glasses cost a lot more than sandwiches so protect your customer and protect your business. Optometry is also a business, and good customer service is paramount!
2. Golf Course Maintenance
I spent a high school summer working my first full time job out in the humid NC heat performing landscaping work, and over a third of what I earned went towards afternoon sessions with personal trainers at the local gym. After a lot of sweat, and sacrifice, I reached a weight loss goal I had been working toward my entire life.
Lesson learned: All ODs have struggled in the short term for the greater good, whether through school or through opening a new practice. It is worth it every time, but takes dedication and patience.
3. Urgent Care
One high school semester, I was shadowing a local PA. Day one presented itself with learning of HIPAA when a patient came in for an STI check and had simultaneously marked “married” and “new sexual partners” on our patient history paperwork.
Lesson learned: Patient confidentiality is critical, and any information that is erroneously revealed can cause massive problems personally and professionally. In addition, I’ll gladly take diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and presbyopia over STIs, influenza, and streptococcal pharyngitis any day of the week.
4. Research Technician
Mice. They urinate and defecate everywhere. Ironically, and embarrassingly, I found myself rushing to the local eye doctor one day with a blaring pink eye.
Lesson learned: Besides the occasional EKC, ODs have it rather nice. No blood, no vomit, no…. bodily fluids.
5. Nuclear Power Plant Fire Watch
One of the more "boring" jobs I've ever worked. It did not take much thinking or creativity. At the end of this 60hr “work”-week summer, I was fully ready to tinker with a reactor and embrace my inner Bruce Banner.
Lesson learned: A career that allows you to problem solve and requires you to constantly adapt cannot be undervalued. Optometry suits this wonderfully so.
Prejudice is a large part of a bouncer’s job. We’re trying to gauge who is going to spend money and who is going to cause trouble. This can be a lot tougher than one would think. I’ve seen people that looked like they were broke run up tabs at the bar that would put to shame your local college fraternities, and I’ve seen military men and women dressed in full uniform attempt to smuggle in a half-gallon of fireball.
Lesson learned: Every patient can be a potential up-sale. No need to go straight for the budget frames or to try and pre-judge whether or not a patient would be interested in progressives.