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Emily Hirst, Optometry Intern


Emily Hirst


B.S. Health Studies, Science Emphasis 

Where did you intern?

This semester I was an optometry intern at Six One Six Vision Center in Eagle, Idaho. It’s a small local private optometry practice that provides a complete range of eye care services to residents in Eagle and the surrounding Treasure Valley. 

What were some of your responsibilities? 

I felt grateful to be welcomed by a team of three doctors that organized my internship experience to be very diverse, and challenged me to see all aspects of the practice. Each day tended to look a little different, but that was something I appreciated and made for a well rounded experience! 

The first few weeks I spent shadowing the doctors during patient exams, so I was able to learn about various eye conditions, diseases, as well as how the doctors go about diagnosing and treating them. Before going into the exam room, they would give me a rundown of the patient, show me reports of their eye condition if they had one, and explain it as well as the options for treatment. This is something I found really thoughtful of the doctors to take time to do, and it ultimately was an aspect of my internship experience that I valued a lot. I not only was able to gain more in depth exposure to various eye conditions, their causes, and treatments, but it also helped me better understand what was happening during the exam. 

I also spent a few days shadowing their opticians in retail optical. They walked me through the retail side of optometry which often includes helping patients pick out a pair of frames (that they feel happy and confident in :), but also walking patients through their options when it comes to things like pricing and insurance. 

Finally, I would say the majority of my internship time was spent serving patients of all ages as an optometric technician. After getting trained, they gave me the opportunity to work with patients independently. This included bringing patients back, charting their medical histories, chief complaints, filling out contact lens pricing options, and performing their pre-testing (Autorefractor, IOP, Optomap/dilation, and FDT). I would then seat them in the exam room, and communicate a brief patient report to the doctor that they’d be seeing. – This was the aspect of my internship that I think challenged me the most, but also might have been one of the most rewarding. It helped me get much more comfortable interacting with patients alone, as well as helped me build confidence in my abilities to thoughtfully connect with patients so I could better understand their concerns, and then be able to communicate those to the doctors efficiently and accurately. 

What was the best part of your internship experience?

I think one of my favorite parts was interacting with all the patients. I especially liked working with pediatric and geriatric patients. The first patient I pre-tested alone was a pediatric patient – this was honestly the best because kids are so non-judgmental and kind when you’re just learning. In addition, I enjoyed being able to work with such a diverse range of patient cases.  Many were routine eye exams, but I also had multiple glaucoma, cataract, red eye, surgery post op., and contact lens encounters. It’s also just been special to connect more with the community members in the Treasure Valley where I grew up, and give back in a way. 

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. It’s a small close-knit practice, so I loved getting to know everyone individually along the way. Dr. Ryan, Dr. Shelby, and Dr. Lauren were all incredibly helpful, patient, and encouraging to me while I learned as was the rest of the team. It was really exciting when they offered me a position to stay on after I graduate this spring, so I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow my experiences in the field of optometry by working at their practice! 

What advice would you give to future interns? 

A piece of advice that I would give future interns is to not limit yourself to looking at internships only on LinkedIn, indeed, etc.. Oftentimes there are places in your own backyard that would be really excited to take you on as an intern, it just takes putting yourself out there. That is actually how I ended up getting mine — I dropped off my resume and told the receptionist that I was interested in Optometry school and looking for an internship for the next semester. That night I received an email from Dr. Lauren saying that she received my resume, and that they’d love to have me on as an intern! 

Another piece of advice I’d give is (no matter the field you are pursuing) to educate yourself on the company’s members and expertise. If you are interested in a particular graduate school or specialty area, check out the company’s website and read about their background.  I was interested in a specific graduate program in addition to learning more about pediatric optometry. It turned out that both of the owners attended the same program I was interested in, and one of them specialized in pediatrics! This can really add to your experience and allow you to gain valuable insights by learning from others who have already been through the process. 

Finally, go in with an open mind and say yes to any opportunities they give you! It’s okay if you make mistakes, but showing that you’re willing to learn and make an effort will go a long way.