Skip to main content

From Shy Kid to Patient Care Enthusiast: How I Knew Optometry was Perfect for Me

K nguyen cover photo

I was always small. Small stature, small presence. The small stature I couldn’t help, at least partly fated by my genetics. However, having a small presence was something that I had acquired over time. From early on, I remember shyness turning into feelings of anxiety. Eyes on me felt like blood rushing to my cheeks and sounded like whispers of judgment propagating in my mind. I had a quiet voice and stuck to the sidelines, scared of drawing attention to myself. Having a job in which I would be interacting with new people daily sounded like something I would never sign up for. Yet, here I am, poised and ready to jump into the field of optometry, in love with patient care and more excited than ever to be helping and interacting with new people. How did I get here, and how did I know that optometry was the right career path for me?

After a school screening I heard that I would have to go to the optometrist, and I was instantly nervous. I would feel ashamed if my prescription was too strong, and I was afraid of getting scolded for any bad habits I had in taking care of my own eyes. Yet, despite all my worrying, the first time I stepped into the office, my anxieties were calmed, and I realized that I had no reason to be so scared. My optometrist greeted me with a smile and politely explained each procedure to me during my check-up. He created an environment where I felt welcome, and even though I was a tiny 5th grader, I never felt small. As I grew older and learned how difficult it is to deal with anxiety, my experiences with my optometrist made me realize that I wanted to have the same calming and welcoming effect on others. It was here that I first developed the desire to become an optometrist focused on fostering a welcoming environment for all patients.

Over time, I watched myself grow in confidence as I took on more leadership opportunities and learned how to interact with a wide variety of people. Personally, my confidence grew when I was able to take leadership in smaller groups, rather than taking enormous leaps at once. First, it started with learning to speak my mind in groups of friends and peers. Starting to express my opinions and ideas on topics I cared about led to me becoming a member of the leadership team in my high school choir. Then, my development continued into undergrad, where I joined the executive board and was eventually elected president of the Asian Student Alliance at my university. Taking on positions of leadership not only allowed me to grow in my confidence, but it also helped me to learn how to interact with others and make people feel understood and welcomed.

Ultimately, my growth in confidence and leadership skills allowed me to earn a job as an Optometric Technician at a private optometry practice. The most important part of my job was performing pre-tests with the patient before they saw the Optometrist, so I was crucial in influencing what the patient’s experience and initial impression would be like. Working with patients requires you to practice reading and adapting to people, which is a skill I have come to greatly enjoy. No matter the situation, my favorite part of my job was always actually being in the room with patients, getting to know them and adapting to their personalities to ensure that they had the best experience possible. After witnessing my eye doctor help me conquer my own fear of the unknown, I was able to do the same for others, and I knew I wanted to keep doing so for the rest of my life.

My journey from a shy little kid to someone who loves patient care and helping others was a gradual process, but it was certainly worth it. In the end, I knew that optometry was the right field for me because it aligned with my personal goals and principles of how I wish to help others. I would recommend that anybody who is interested in optometry examine their own personal growth and determine how it leads them to a world of patient relationships and caring for others. Stay true to those principles and let them guide you through the process!

Click here to read Student Ambassador bios on our website!