Reading time 3.26
Ever thought about your superpowers? Sure optometry allows us to help our patients by taking care of their eyes and visual system. That’s the reason we all wanted to become optometrists. It also allows us to make a decent living and provide for our families. But did you ever stop to consider the superpowers it also grants us?
What am I talking about? Here are some of my thoughts on our special powers. We develop excellent night vision from all the hours we spend in a dark room. My patients often comment about me writing my clinical notes in the dark (in the days before EMR). But, I think nothing of it. I have become adept at dark adapting and functioning quite well in the dark.
We have great strength in the arm and shoulder muscles allowing us to keep our arms elevated for long periods of time while we refract our patients. This is especially true when faced with that patient who wants to see every choice two or three times.
Our thumbs are powerful from popping lenses in and out of frames. Strong thumbs and fingers are also vital for prying our patients’ lids open. And even more challenging is keeping those lids open long enough for an examination or instillation of drops.
We have an odd superpower of being able to recognize the front and back surfaces of transparent materials. Once we develop this skill, we don’t think about it much. We use this skill daily when examining the cornea and the lens.
But, it also comes in handy when we inspect lenses for defects and scratches and it allows us to identify the damaged surface. It is useful when cleaning spectacle lenses, or in windows when at home. We can tell if a scratch or smudge is on the front or back surface of a pane of glass or a windshield. I took this skill for granted. I thought that everyone could do this. But, it turns out to be somewhat unique to ocular fields. It is possible that others may share this ability. However, I still think it is unique enough to qualify as one of our superpowers.
Our spatial awareness is keen since we must reverse right and left for patients all day long. But, there is a down side to this. When I am giving directions, I actually have to stop and think since my brain is so programmed to reverse right and left for my patients. My sisters know it’s better to watch which way I point rather than listening to what I say.
Weird math skills are also in our arsenal. To be honest, they’re not really weird, just not skills most people practice anymore. We need the ability to do math in our heads. How many times a day do we transpose a prescription from plus to minus cylinder, calculate a spherical equivalent or just do lensometry?
But it turns out that we do other things that throw off most people. We are comfortable with both positive and negative numbers. We have no trouble adding or subtracting numbers with unequal signs. Subtracting a larger number from a smaller one doesn’t throw us like some people. If you don’t believe me, then ask someone to subtract- 5.25 from +1.75. For us, it’s just basic lensometry. Additionally, we are adept at working with decimal points and especially good at dealing with .12 and.25 increments.
And let’s not forget the metric system that confounds most Americans. It’s a snap for us as we move from metric to English measurements while explaining findings to our patients. Imagine a patient leaving our office confused, and likely depressed, if we told them they had 6/6 vision in both eyes. Or if we told them that most people work at 40 cm (16 inches) at near.
OUR TRUE POWERS AND ABILITIES
Joking aside, we know these are not true superpowers. Yet do our patients understand what we really do in an eye exam? I suspect they know our ability to diagnose and treat eye disease and refractive errors. But do our patients know we are looking for ocular complications of systemic disease and medications? Are they aware we are checking their neurological status? And that we need to be up-to-date on optics and the design of both lenses and contacts. Do you teach your patients what an eye exam is and how it differs from screenings they may receive other places? If not, perhaps you should consider explaining how much we are doing.
All super heroes require a costume and alter-ego. I’m not sure what ours should be. Do you have any ideas? Perhaps, we just need a discrete little cape added to our lab coat or maybe an emblem with a giant eye or glasses. I’m not sure what our super hero would wear, but I am certain that our alter-ego would be wearing a great set of glasses (like Superman/ Clark Kent).
Can you think of any optometry superpowers I missed? How about suggestions for our costume? Please leave any comments in the section below.