Thanks for the work experience

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Click, click, click was the noise I heard while sitting in the exam room as the optician turned the dials on the phoropter to begin my exam to get my first pair of contacts. I remember turning to my mom afterward and telling her that for some strange reason, I liked the clicking noise the phoropter made when the dials were turned. That was the first time I thought about becoming an optometrist. Around the same time at school, I took a career placement test which was supposed to tell me what careers would be best for me. The results, shockingly, showed optometry as my No. 1.  I took that as a sign that I was choosing the right career.

I have had the great opportunity to intern with Dr. Jennifer Kellems at the Walmart Vision Center since the beginning of the school year. So once my senior year began, I was not 100-percent sure that it was what I wanted to spend the next eight years of my life studying or to have as a career for the rest of my life. The internship program gave me a chance to spend time with Dr. Kellems, who has helped reinforce my decision.

I intern every Tuesday and Thursday during my last two periods of the day, which gives me about an hour-and-a-half with Dr. Kellems each time.

During that time, I have been able to see what being an optometrist is all about. When I began my internship, I had to study the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a privacy law and take a test so I would be HIPAA trained; allowing me to continue interning all school year and sit through patients’ appointments.

Once I became HIPAA trained, I was able to sit through appointments with patients of all different ages. With adult patients I was able to learn about the beginning of cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, astigmatism, etc.

With younger children and adults, I have been able to see them get excited about their first pair of glasses or contacts.

Besides sitting through appointments, I have also had an opportunity to learn about billing insurance. I have made calls to set up appointments with specialists for some patients. I have filed and faxed papers. I have watched how glasses get adjusted to fit someone’s face and watched patients learn how to put in and remove their new contacts.

Dr. Kellems is an independent doctor, so she has been able to tell me what it is like to work on your own and not own a business.

That has been an eye-opening experience because I did not give the business part a thought when deciding to become an optometrist. I still have not decided if I want to look into owning my own business one day or stay independent.

I am lucky to have this opportunity to learn about my future career before I begin college.

I think without this opportunity I would still be unsure about my decision and I may have decided to change my mind by now.

My internship has given me the chance to learn much more about optometry than what other people going into the same field will know once we begin college, which will hopefully give me an advantage on my classmates. I have greatly enjoyed having this opportunity and I know I am making the right career choice.

Haaff is a senior at Tell City Junior-Senior High School.