PURPOSE. The first two years of optometry school are depressingly similar to the student's undergraduate educational experience. Then students are put into clinic where we ask them "magically" to know how to integrate their hard-earned (or hardly learned) knowledge. In an effort to make a better transition into clinic at NSUCO we initiated a closely monitored clinical observation/participation program for the first and second year students. We hoped this would better prepare them for clinic and allow them to see more patients. METHOD. Starting in the second week of school first and second year students were assigned to clinic. The first years only observed in primary care clinic, and only as much of the exam as they had been exposed to so far. The second year students acted as "scribes" or recorders and were required to stay for the entire exam. They spent time in primary care, contact lenses, and BV clinics. In the second semester these students performed the initial testing up to the subjective refraction and then returned to observation and recording. Surveys were taken of the new third year students as they first entered clinic and of the clinical faculty at the conclusion of the summer rotation. The total patient encounters were tabulated. A comparison was made between the previous year (when there was no clinic exposure) and at the conclusion of the first year of this program.
RESULTS. Both the students and the faculty feel the students are better prepared for clinic in general and specifically in the areas of exam recording and case history. Their improved competency facilitated changes in scheduling which resulted in an increase in the average number of patient encounters of 78%.
CONCLUSIONS. For the Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry the experience of instituting an active early entry into clinic program has been a happy one. The students are better prepared and able to see more patients. This has become a regular part of instruction at NSUCO.