My name is Jaskirat Sahni, and I am a second-year Optometry student at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University. I am originally from Vancouver, Canada, so moving to Philadelphia was definitely a huge change for me. Grad school has been a challenging yet rewarding experience for me so far, and I am excited to share a bit about what my day looks like.
The life of a second-year student varies from day to day, and now that we are officially taking patients in the clinic at The Eye Institute (TEI), clinic days are very different from our usual lectures and labs. In order to prepare us for clinic, our first term was dedicated to lectures and nine practical exams to ensure we had mastered all the skills we needed to see patients. Each day consisted of attending lectures and any labs during the day, along with practicing our skills in pairs in the evenings. We took turns dilating our eyes in order to perform some of the skills, so it took a lot of juggling schedules to decide when we could be dilated for a few hours and when we needed to study.
Apart from classes, labs and clinic, I am also a Salus Ambassador. I have been involved with this amazing opportunity since my first year and continue to work with the student engagement team at Salus to create a sense of community within the student population. I’m also the president of the Student Optometric Service to Humanity (SOSH) club, which hosts events and fundraisers to provide free quality eyecare to underserved communities in an international service trip planned each year. Aside from my volunteering commitments, I tutor students through Salus and work as an optics teaching assistant. My work and volunteer commitments may seem like a lot, but they are actually quite spread out with only biweekly meetings and options to work at my own pace. I enjoy taking a break from studying to be involved with the community I now call home for these four years.
With these commitments and varying schedules, it can be challenging to predict what any one day looks like, but here is an example of what a day might look like with a morning clinic shift for a second-year student:
6:30 a.m.: I wake up and get ready for clinic. I make sure I have all my equipment ready to go, including the suitcase we need to take to clinic each day with all our equipment. I make sure to eat something for breakfast to fuel my morning and then head out to The Eye Institute. Luckily, I’m only a seven-minute drive from Salus University and about a 15-minute drive to The Eye Institute, so the commute is not too bad.
7:45 a.m. – noon: I am seeing patients in Suite 1 if I am assigned to Primary Care, or some days I go to a particular Specialty Care Service to provide care in areas such as contact lens, glaucoma, low vision, or visual fields to name a few. Currently, we are still pretty new to clinic so second years have been paired with either a third-year student or a fellow second year to conduct full eye exams. A wide range of patients are assigned to us by a floater, who is in charge of keeping the appointment flow going. A morning shift usually consists of seeing one or two patients depending on the complexity of the exam.
Noon – 1 p.m.: At the end of my morning shift, I will usually grab some coffee and lunch before heading home. I will take the lunch hour to relax, recharge and look at the schedule for my afternoon.
1 – 5 p.m.: Due to COVID, most of our lectures are still online, so I will watch a recorded lecture and take some notes. Sometimes we will have a synchronous Blackboard Collaborate session, which is usually a virtual recitation for exams that I will attend in the afternoon for a particular class. These help us understand main concepts and how to focus our studying for upcoming exams.
5 p.m.: Now that the scheduled day is over, it’s time to take a breather. I will relax for a little bit, then look through messages/emails and catch up on any communication. This includes looking at club emails and scheduling any tutoring sessions or volunteer commitments. I’ll fit in a quick workout or if I am feeling really ambitious, I will head over to the Hafter Center at Salus to go to the gym there.
6:30 p.m.: Dinner time! On days that I have clinic, I try to stick to leftovers/meal prep from the day before or fix a quick and easy meal. I’ll watch some TV or just catch up with friends and family for a bit before heading back to studying.
7:30 p.m.: Depending on whether I have an exam coming up or assignments/labs to prep, I will quickly plan out what I need to get done for the night. I’ll take a look at the week’s schedule to ensure I plan accordingly and then get to it. If exams are coming up, I will make sure to catch up on lectures if needed and start making exam prep notes from the slides. Sometimes if I need another study break I’ll cook up a meal for the next day so that I do not have to worry about it when I’m on the go again.
11 p.m.: Time to put the books away and unwind. Unless I have an exam or something due the next day, I’ll call it a night for studying and just relax in bed on my phone until I’m ready to sleep.
Although the schedule of a Doctor of Optometry student varies, there is no doubt that it requires a lot of hard work and dedication each and every day. These four years are our chance to grasp all that we can learn and work toward becoming the best clinicians and leaders we can be in our field. Remember, if you continue to chase your dream and focus on achieving your goals, you will succeed.