Story by Douglas Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
Seeing is believing was the shared theme as Naval Hospital Bremerton’s (NHB) Ophthalmology Clinic and Refractive Surgery Center invited military optometrists to attend their ‘Refractive Surgery Day,’ on Sept. 15, 2016.
With seven PRK – photorefractive keratectomy – surgeries and two LASIK – laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis – surgeries scheduled that day, NHB staff members showcased surgical competencies and services provided with their optometrist guests from multiple commands in the great Puget Sound area and from as far afield as Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, Washington.
“We wanted to share who we are, where we are located, and what we do with referrals from the Navy, Air Force, Army and U.S. Coast Guard optometrists and their staff in the area,” said Soledad Ugalino, NHB Ophthalmology Clinic and Refractive Surgery Center Registered Nurse/Certified Registered Nurse in Ophthalmology.
The mission of NHB’s Ophthalmology Clinic and Refractive Surgery Center is to deliver state-of-the-art surgical vision correction to active duty military and other uniformed service personnel, with emphasis on visual performance enhancement for the warfighter. Operational readiness and safety is improved by reducing the need for glasses and contact lenses. This is done either with PRK or LASIK surgery. Both are used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
The event was held in NHB’s Vice Adm. Richard Nelson Refractive Surgery Center and also covered a review of NHB’s current surgery center treatment parameters, actual observation of PRK and LASIK eye surgical procedures, military refractive surgery current topics of interest such as referral guidelines and primary care considerations, refractive surgery post operation complications and new information from the 2016 Military Refractive Surgery Safety and Standards Symposium.
“We appreciate all the referrals we get from optometrists. We also have the ability to handle more patients. We want them sent our way, after they have been to their optometrist for consultation, testing, and treatment,” said Jay Krog, Doctor of Optometry.
The clinic has currently seen 418 total patients and provided 580 PRK and 234 LASIK primary procedures for 832 total eyes treated through August for Fiscal Year 2016 that wraps up at the end of Sept. They have performed surgery on an average of 38 patients and over 75 eyes per month. Last fiscal year 949 eyes were treated, for an average of 79 per month.
According to Krog, there is room for more.
“We’re not risk takers with refractive surgery. We will consider those with a diagnosis that may not fit the parameters in place. But there are specific guidelines in place. We know that military patients are motivated to have surgery. Visits include going over the risks and complications with each potential patient,” explained Krog.
For Lt. Cmdr. Jon Selbyg, NHB’s Branch Health Clinic Bangor optometrist, the opportunity to actually witness up close the eye surgery procedures he has recommended to patients was very insightful.
“This was a fantastic idea to get as many optometrists together as possible from all over and let us view what goes on here. And it’s not just Navy, but all the services. Caring for all services is such a great asset for everyone,” said Selbyg.
“The feedback we got was all positive. It was good for those outside our clinic and not enmeshed in our skillset to be able to come in and see everything that we do and also get any questions answered,” said Erick Brendon, NHB Ophthalmic Technician, adding that their entire focus is dealing with diseases and disorders of the eye.
“It is so rewarding to be able to help our patients when it comes to eye care. A patient might come to the clinic on an annual basis or semiannual basis if they have glaucoma, diabetes, even dry eye and cataracts. I enjoy helping when it gets to a point where we have to intervene surgically to help a patient and get those patients back to health. Patients are very happy for our service of being able to improve their vision,” Brendon stated.