If you're in school preparing to become an optometrist, you're likely aware that the NBEO, or the qualifying board examination that serves as an entryway to being a practicing optometrist, is in your future.
‘Aware' may be an understatement. Likely, you've spent years preparing for the NBEO. It may not have occurred to you, however, that you need to do more than merely make sure you comprehend all of the subject matter that the exam will cover.
Optometry, like many other medical fields, requires a high level of professional behavior from each optometrist. If you have ever conducted yourself in a way that goes against the prevailing standards for practicing optometrists, even if the misconduct occurred while you were in school or further in your past, you need to be aware that that misconduct could affect your ability to take the board.
This would necessarily have an impact on your career—if it happens. You need to make sure that it doesn't. If you're preparing to take the national board exam to become a licensed optometrist and you're aware that you have any misconduct in your past that could jeopardize your ability to do so, you need to take action today. Teaming up with a qualified, experienced student defense attorney will be the most important thing that you can do to protect your professional future.
What Is the NBEO?
If you're studying to become an optometrist, you may already be familiar with the NBEO, or the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. The NBEO administers a set or series of examinations colloquially known as the ‘National Boards' for optometry students. These examinations set out to “assess the cognitive, psychomotor, affective, and communication skills that are essential for entry-level optometric practice.”
As these high-stakes tests serve as a gateway to a successful (or possible) career, preparing for these exams does feature prominently in a young optometry student's academic career. All 50 states in America require a prospective optometrist to pass these boards prior to application for a license.
The series of exams takes place over a two-year stretch during an optometry student's education. The typical schedule is as follows:
- NBEO Part I takes place during the spring of the student's third year of school
- NBEO Part II takes place in December of the fourth year
- NBEO Part III takes place at any time during the student's fourth year
In addition to being a primary prerequisite for licensing, there are some colleges and schools that require optometry students to pass all or part of the National Boards in order to receive their degrees. Other schools merely require that the students sit the boards, regardless of the result, prior to graduation.
Regardless of your school's specific NBEO-related requirements, it's clear that this exam or series of exams is far more than just a rite of passage. Your ability to take this exam directly reflects your ability to embark upon the career that you've worked hard to begin.
Unfortunately, the high standards of professional behavior that your field has might influence your ability to even sit the exam. If you have any evidence or record of past misconduct, you may find that the governing board rejects your registration to take the NBEO.
The Definition of Professionalism for a Prospective Optometrist
As is common with many niche practices within the overarching medical field, the optometry community has extremely high expectations of each of its practitioners.
The College of Optometrists recently released a publication detailing the standards of professionalism for its field. The qualities it lists that, together, result in the professional behavior expected of an optometrist include:
- Open, constant communication
- Ethical behavior
- Honesty and integrity in all aspects
- The ability to use their knowledge for the benefit of their patients
- The ability to think critically
- Empathetic treatment of colleagues and patients
- An awareness of a patient's innate dignity
- Approachability and a good presentation of self
These are broad categories. Beyond these elements of a professional optometrist, the College of Optometrists released a short brief defining the actions and attributes of a professional optometrist. These definitions state that:
- An optometrist reflects on their own actions and acts in an ethical manner
- An optometrist prioritizes healthy, respectful relationships with their patients and provides high-quality care
- An optometrist's practice reflects the most up-to-date knowledge and competence available in their field
- An optometrist follows available professional guidance
- An optometrist contributes to the development of their profession through research and continuing education
Clearly, the optometry community expects great things, ethical actions, and professional conduct from each of its practitioners.
If you have any misconduct at all, of any type, on your record, the examining committee for prospective optometrists could easily question your fitness to practice in your intended field.
The High Standards Required for Sitting the NBEO
With regards to the exam itself, the NBEO has a strict policy against any type of cheating or “improper conduct at any point before, during, or after” a student takes an NBEO examination.
The NBEO further defines cheating as “any conduct which subverts, contravenes or is inconsistent with NBEO's purpose of ensuring that each Candidate's exam score accurately reflects the candidate's actual knowledge base and competence.”
The NBEO takes the security of its exam processes and the reliability of its results very seriously. As such, any exam candidate who tampers with that process will be guilty of improper conduct and therefore liable to a quick response from the NBEO - one that will likely not result in an exam result in good standing.
Examples of improper behavior that the NBEO prohibits includes:
- Any instances wherein a person gains access to confidential, copyrighted information owned by the NBEO (e.g., past, current, or future exams)
- Copying or collaboration with another student on the exam
- Accepting external help on the exam
- Reconstructing and distributing NBEO exam questions after sitting the board
- Failing to report observed cheating or other improper conduct
- Providing false or misleading information while registering for the NBEO
Beyond instances of improper behavior while taking the test itself, the NBEO has also released statements regarding its Ethics Policy. For example, the National Board of Examining Optometrists “considers professionalism to be an essential component of all optometry candidates' character and fitness to practice optometry.” As such, if the NBEO learns of any documented unprofessional behavior before the Exams, the NBEO may reconsider a candidate's right to sit those exams.
Examples of misconduct that could affect your ability to take your boards will vary depending upon the disciplinary and behavioral standards and policies at your specific school. It's a good idea to take time to review the code of conduct that your school has in place to learn more about the actions that your school finds punishable.
Ultimately, any disciplinary action or note that makes its way to your permanent record could disrupt your future. Depending on your school's policies, this could include items of academic misconduct (such as plagiarism and cheating), sexual misconduct (such as dating violence or harassment), or other types of misconduct (such as bullying, violence, or destruction of school property).
Regardless of the specific type of misconduct, it's vital to work hard to make sure that any allegations against you do not result in permanent disciplinary ramifications. That's why it's a good idea to start working with a student defense lawyer the moment you learn that you face allegations for improper behavior or any type of misconduct.
Rules and Regulations Regarding NBEO Testing Irregularities
While misconduct in your past may serve to disqualify you during the Board application process, you'll find that any misconduct associated with the Board itself or test-taking irregularities you may demonstrate could also have adverse effects.
The NBEO has an ethics policy that governs all test-taking candidates. In that ethics policy, the NBEO sets forth specific expectations for appropriate test-taking behavior. In the policy, the NBEO notes that the following behaviors are examples of improper conduct:
- Gaining access to confidential NBEO exam information
- Copying the exam answers from another candidate
- Obtaining outside assistance during the exam
- Reconstructing NBEO exam items after the exam and distributing to other persons
- Observing improper conduct on the part of another and failing to report it to the governing body
What You Can Do: How to Protect Yourself Against Allegations
If you're aware that an allegation of misconduct might be in your future, or even if you're dealing with one now, there are specific ways that you can act to make a future defense much easier. As soon as you realize that you might need to manage past misconduct, consider implementing the following courses of action:
- Do your research. Read up on the qualifications and prerequisites for sitting the NBEO; delve through your own school's student handbook or code of conduct (likely available through your school's website) to learn everything you can about both punishable behaviors and your school's process for adjudicating past misconduct. Not only will this help you to familiarize yourself with the procedures that lay before you, you may be able to work to hold your school more accountable to your process-protected rights if you know you have them. Additionally, any actions on the part of your school that veer away from documented procedure may constitute grounds for a later appeal, if necessary.
- Document as many details regarding your past misconduct as possible. When you begin to work with an attorney, you'll need to fill them in on everything that's happened. When your school begins its investigation into all alleged behavior, you'll have a chance to present your side of the story. If you have a clear timeline and reference for everything that happened, including any evidence or data that strengthens your story, your attorney may be able to use this information to determine your strategy (or at least provide recommendations about the best way to position your defense).
- Don't talk to anyone about your alleged misconduct. While your first instinct might be to apologize to any victims of the misconduct or to confide in a friend or mentor, you need to remain silent. Any statements that you make after your allegations can constitute evidence against you. If you need to talk about what happened, speak to your student defense attorney-advisor.
- Find an experienced attorney to assist with your case. Even if this seems like overkill (your school's disciplinary committee isn't a court of law, after all), it isn't. Remember that your ability to practice your chosen profession is at stake. Your student defense advisor can help you protect your ability to have the future that you want (and have worked hard for). More than that: An attorney has the direct skills and experience you need to represent yourself aggressively. An attorney can help you draft documents with care; an attorney can help you meet deadlines and coach you through statements that you'll need to make.
Ultimately, you're going to need a partner in the upcoming weeks and months to ensure that your past misconduct does not cost you your future as a practicing optometrist. As you begin to prepare to take your national boards, it's time to make sure your reputation is spotless and stands up to scrutiny.
Hiring a misconduct attorney will be the best thing you can do to work towards a successful outcome.
Call Joseph D. Lento Today to Learn More About Your Options
If you're a future optometrist, you've invested heavily in your chosen career. You've completed extensive training and schooling; you've completed clinical rotations and demonstrated your skills in real-world settings. Now, it's time to sit your boards. This is one of the final hurdles standing between you and your career as a respected optometrist.
Unfortunately, if you have any records of past misconduct - academic, sexual, or otherwise - then the examining committee may not allow you to take this all-important exam. As a result, your future will be over before it's even begun—hardly an acceptable return for all of your hard work.
If you find yourself in a situation where you're wondering about the effect your past may have on your future, it's time to work towards certainty and success. With Joseph D. Lento at your side, you can fight any disciplinary action in your future and work to defend your reputation aggressively.
Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have unparalleled experience fighting for the rights and the futures of young professional and pre-professional students all across the nation. Joseph D. Lento will commit to defending your rights, keep your school accountable to due progress, and represent your interests through to the conclusion of your case.
Don't allow your future to be at risk. You've worked too hard for that. Instead, reach out to Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today for more information about how we can help you. Call us today at 888-535-3686.