Optometry FAQs for Board Rates

I heard that board scores were below national average – why?
The administration and faculty of PCO have been following the board scores for a number of years now and analyzing various trends. Initially, they felt what made PCO’s program so different and unique was that students go off campus in January of their third year. Part 1 administration is also in March of their third year so students are typically off campus at this time. While this is a great experience for students clinically, they’ve been finding that sometimes it’s been a struggle for these students to balance everything at once. As a result, one of the first things PCO initially did was allow students to continue to go off campus, but have one day off each week while on externships, so they could focus on studying.
 
Due to the recent scores from this past March, immediate action was needed so we could make sure our students are best prepared for the exam in March of 2018. As such, our students will remain on campus from January until March when they take Part 1 Boards. Students will still remain in clinic one day a week, but now they’re going to be on campus in an environment where they can be supported by peers as well as faculty to best prepare them for this upcoming exam.
 
What does the college do to prepare students for the Boards?
Students who work hard and take advantage of all the resources that Salus PCO has to offer have the potential to both achieve success while in the program and upon graduation. 

That being said, the College provides a number of activities to prepare students for all parts of the NBEO exams. While the college is not aware of what is asked on the exam, faculty will provide reviews based on the outlines provided on the NBEO website. Students are academically counseled throughout their time at PCO to focus on areas of weakness and concern.

Additional immediate initiatives for all current classes include the implementation of electronic testing to help students become more comfortable taking electronic exams which mimic the NBEO exam; and an increase in the amount of quizzes and exams to provide students an opportunity to consistently review the material.

For those students who are currently on campus, there is intensive faculty and student board review sessions and students also have KMK Educational Services on campus throughout their second and third year of optometry school.
 
For the class of 2021, modular courses were unbundled into individual courses to better track student retention and performance in key basic science areas. All classes will receive NBEO review sessions.
 
For those of you entering in the late summer/fall of 2018 as the Class of 2022, we are already underway in completing a substantial curriculum review. Entrance to clinical experiences will remain the same with students entering the clinic within the first week of school. A full patient experience will still occur in January of the student’s second year and a full year of off-campus externships/rotations during the fourth year across the United States will also remain. The only major difference is the fact that we’re going to extend the students’ time on campus during the third year. The purpose for this is to ensure each and every student is prepared. PCO is doing whatever it needs to do to make sure students are prepared for Part 1 and still get the excellent clinical experience that PCO traditionally gives.

A refined focus in the following curricular areas will also occur:
  • Disruptive technologies and the role of optometry and the healthcare system
  • Lasers and minor surgical procedures
  • Focused emphasis in neuro-ophthalmic diagnosis and rehabilitative care of the
    patient
  • Community outreach
  • Interprofessional practice
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Ocular anatomy and physiology followed by systemic health and well-being
In addition to providing full transparency on all performance areas of NBEO exams from previous classes, for the incoming class of 2022, PCO will also initiate a “pilot retention exam” to determine areas in which students struggle during their first year of optometry school in addition to having faculty reinforce NBEO Part I outline and highlight FIVE key areas at the conclusion of each course.
 
For the Class of 2022, the minimum GPA (to remain in the program) will be raised from a 2.0 to a 2.4, while for the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021 at-risk students with a GPA lower than 2.4 will be identified and study plans will be developed with specific focus areas.
Why should I choose Salus PCO if board scores are low?
The administration and faculty are fully aware of the board score challenges and are making the most efficient modifications to make sure students are best prepared. After multiple faculty meetings, the PCO dean met with students so there is full transparency of where we stand on Part 1.  But, ultimately, when students graduate, they are able to pass Part 1 even though they have appeared to have trouble the first time it’s administered. The University and PCO hopes that by keeping these students on campus and giving them an opportunity to be with their peers and faculty, they’ll be able to increase this score.
 
Since the inception of Salus University’s founding college nearly 100 years ago, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), and now the University, have advanced integrated healthcare through innovative education, research and clinical services.  Two hallmarks of a Salus education are early clinical experience and strong, on-campus, interdisciplinary training. Today, Salus graduates represent many health and rehabilitative professions integral to interdisciplinary and inter-professional practice, each with a uniquely important role to play in ensuring the health and well-being of the public.   
 
A hands-on approach to direct patient care is what sets PCO graduates apart from their professional peers. Our students are exposed to patients at all University clinical facilities – not just within their own program. This unique opportunity allows students to gain a clinical care perspective from other professions, a decided advantage other schools may not offer. The Eye Institute, the College's “clinical classroom” and its four satellite locations are an unrivaled setting for comprehensive eye care. With more than 40,000 patient visits each year, this clinical facility provides students with a superior clinical education while serving residents of the Delaware Valley and beyond. The Eye Institute employs a multi-disciplinary approach, giving students an opportunity to work with optometrists, ophthalmologists, physicians, opticians, optometric technicians, and other healthcare professionals to provide total vision care to patients.
 
 
What are some recent updates or student achievements to highlight at Salus PCO?
Recent University renovations have also been completed to keep Salus, PCO, its facilities and technologies modern and up to date with the renovation of the Learning Resource Center, and its new, state-of-the-art classroom and to keep PCO at the forefront of optometric education delivery, the Virtual Reality Simulation Lab adjacent to the brand new Clinical Procedures Lab.  
 
In 2017, Jamie (Roden) Pucci ‘18OD was also named the recipient of the Dr. Norman E. Wallis Award for Excellence for achieiving the highest score on the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) Part 1 Basic Science Exam. Her score topped more than 2,000 students who took the exam at testing centers throughout the U.S. The Dr. Norman E. Wallis Award for Excellence was established to honor Dr. Wallis and his 25 years of phenomenal service as the executive director of the NBEO. Dr. Wallis was also the Pennsylvania College of Optometry’s president from 1972-1979. PCO previously won the Dr. Norman E. Wallis Award for Excellence in 2007 when two students -- Rebecca Eiss, OD ’08, and Kathryn Gurganus, OD ’08 – tied for the highest national score.
 
How successful are graduates at finding employment after graduation?
Within six months of graduation, all graduates reported having secured full-time employment – these settings range from corporate and hospitals to a private practice or residency program. In 2017, PCO applicants received a 76 percent match rate for residency placements, which is slightly above the national match rate of 74 percent. A few graduates also had military assignments secured.