Top 10 qualities of engineer patients

September 1, 2016
Tracy Schroeder Swartz, OD, MS, FAAO

Tracy Schroeder Swartz currently practices at Madison Eye Care Center in Madison, Alabama. She serves as Education Chair for the Optometric Council for Refractive Technology, and consults for industry. She specializes in anterior segment disorders, and be

I live in Madison, AL, one mile from the Marshall Space Center, where all the kids go to space camp. My son has been there five times and can give you the full tour of the facility. I also live one mile from Redstone Arsenal, which I can tell you firsthand has cows and missiles on it.

The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

I live in Madison, AL, one mile from the Marshall Space Center, where all the kids go to space camp. My son has been there five times and can give you the full tour of the facility. I also live one mile from Redstone Arsenal, which I can tell you firsthand has cows and missiles on it.

Living in this area, 50-percent of my friends are:

1. An engineer

2. Married to an engineer

3. Divorced from an engineer

4. Paying for their child to become an engineer 

I investigated characteristics of engineers to get to know all my new neighbors a bit better. According to EngineeringSchools.com, here are some of the top qualities of engineers:

1. Possess a strong analytical aptitude

Great engineers have excellent analytical skills and is continually examining things and thinking of ways to help them work better. This often manifests in them taking control of the phoropter and refracting themselves. If you enter the exam lane and find your patient behind the phoropter, your patient is either 6 years old or an engineer.

Related: Why patient education is bit like fortune telling

2. Show attention to detail

Great engineers pay meticulous attention to detail. We can all relate to this characteristic, which results in refractions that take all day. Literally, all day. 

After keratorefractive surgery, they will ask to be refracted at every visit and may ask to come in every day for the first 14 days to assess their refractive error. These folks also request you put up the 20/15 line and heaven forbid they can read it, they will ask for the 20/10.

They will then spend five minutes trying to guess the 20/10 letters. If they can read that, you will have to get out your lecture notes about the limits of the human retina being 20/8 due to the architecture of the retinal ganglion cells. 

While some patients will answer, “I can’t tell a difference” to the “One vs. two test,” an engineer will never ever do this. If they can’t tell a difference, they will demand you repeat the options 10 times.

They also love topography and wavefront aberrometry, and will often bring you hand-drawn pictures of what they see to demonstrate to you the inadequacies of their visual system. 

 

3. Have excellent communication skills

Great engineers have great communication skills. In my experience, this means they use big words to sound smart. They are not skilled in small talk or in the conversational ways of the southern woman. Refraction conversation will likely go like this:


Doctor: Which do you prefer, one (click) or two (click)?

Patient: One (Immediately spoken without hesitation)

Doctor: Great. Now, three (click) or four (click)?

Patient: Two

Doctor: Ah yes, well, compare these for me now. Three (click) or four (click)?

Patient: Three but two is the best

On and on this goes for 15 minutes while they guess the 20/10 line. 

Great engineers will also present a three-page list of questions for a LASIK evaluation-typed of course. They will ask every question, crossing each out after you’ve answered it. 

Related: Why it’s OK to be bossy

4. Take part in continuing education

Great engineers stay on top of developments in the industry. This means they often read technical manuals while in the office and always have the latest technical devices delivering lots of blue light to their unsuspecting retinas. If we have just begun to use a new coating, lens material, space-age technology, or visual systems concept, they will know about it before you do. 

5. Show creativity

Great engineers are creative and can think of new and innovative ways to develop new systems to make existing things work more efficiently. If you need assistance with any of your office systems, go find these patients. During your binocular indirect exam, ask them questions about computers, security software, iPhone apps, whatever you need to know. You can have all of your technological questions answered while you make them look in all positions of gaze for a good 10 minutes. 

Related: Top 6 reasons to refer for cataract surgery

6. Show an ability to think logically

Great engineers have top-notch logical skills. They are able to make sense of complex systems and understand how things work along with how problems arise.
This means that you will get into a 20-minute discussion about how any refractive surgical procedure works. This is particularly true for inlays. Do not discuss tracking technology developed by NASA because the inventor may be holding your occluder. Before you can come up with a nonengineering excuse to leave the room, they will correct whatever you just said to misrepresent the massive technological advancement, leaving you 40 minutes behind schedule.

 

7. Are mathematically inclined

Great engineers have excellent math skills. Engineering is an intricate science that involves complex calculations of varying difficulty. Do not discuss spherical equivalent with engineers-they do vector math in their heads for fun. Pupillary distance, vertexing, or wavefront refraction are also off limits.

Related: 7 tips from a Yankee OD living in the South

8. Have good problem-solving skills

Great engineers have sharp problem-solving skills. Heaven forbid they have anisekonia. They will want to explore the disorder and reach a conclusion on their own, not resting until a resolution is found. Which translates to: Buckle up, you may be here a while. (Check out www.shawlens.com.)

9. Are team players

Great engineers understand that they are part of a larger team. The team must working together to make one project come together successfully. In my experience, the “team concept” thing works only if you are working toward the same goal. Given the amount of engineers who are divorced, I am not sure about this point. My advice is to suggest that refraction is a team effort. You flip the lenses, and they astutely choose. Voilà! Glasses!

Related: The best and worst parts of holidays as an OD mom

10. Have excellent technical knowledge

Great engineers have a vast amount of technical knowledge. This is why they love our toys: OCTs, corneal topography, pachymetry, wavefront aberrometry, refraction, all of it. They love to take printouts home because they tend to keep their entire medical file at home in a lockbox. 

As demanding as engineers can be, I still prefer them to country music stars-more so because I am not expected to know who engineers are, plus they all have badges hanging from lanyards around their necks so I won’t forget their names. Most importantly, if you went to Purdue University for that engineering degree, this Hoosier is going to crank up my BIO light after dilating you with cyclopentylate.