We stepped into the school grounds where we would be working and I saw large concrete squares that had only natural lighting. First, all stations were set-up: triage, consultation, dental, charla, and then pharmacy. But, how was the vision station going to fit into the clinic? Which room was dark enough to use the refractor and which room was bright enough to use the Snellen charts? We finally decided to place the vision station after consultation with the physicians. First, a patient would take initial nearsighted and farsighted eye examinations, then an optometrist would see the patient, and then a student would evaluate their eyes with an autorefractor. Once their prescription was determined, a team of students would shuffle through our inventory or glasses to find them the right pair that corrected their vision.
At times, I would have to re-due the refractor exam multiple times with a patient because they were moving their head or looking into the laser in the machine. I felt guilty after asking a patient to repeat the exam more than twice because many patients wanted to get out of the clinic as soon as possible. But when a patient first puts on a pair of glasses that allows them to see clearly, they get the widest grin which is naturally infectious. This kind of feedback truly allowed me to see the immediate impact we can have on a person’s quality of life and pushed me to try harder to minimize the amount of times I had to ask a patient to repeat the refractor exam. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile to motivate you to work harder.