Is Your School Emotionally Abusive?

Veyebes

New Member
Oct 10, 2021
1
1
  1. Optometry Student
    Hi, all. Second-year student at PCO here.

    I am reaching out because the atmosphere amongst most of our student body, at least in my class and from who I've spoken with since I started, is absolutely horrible. We are exhausted, normalizing mental breakdowns, experiencing absurd levels of Imposter Syndrome, and we are watching our classmates drop like flies. I personally feel that I am not allowed to feel like I am making progress. Ever. The expectations, especially during practicals, are so high that they are designed to be failed. I have watched myself degrade as a person since I began here (inb4 yes, I have a therapist and a psychiatrist - actually, I see a therapist at the school, and they are so overbooked, mostly with optometry students, that there is a strict limit on how many sessions we can have per academic year and I will likely need to see an additional outside therapist soon), and I legitimately went through stages of grief during my first year, realizing how toxic this place is and how much it does not harbor a constructive academic challenge but rather one that tears you apart and leaves you hating the career you were so passionate about when you first applied.

    My conflict is that I don't know if this is just how Optometry School is (which then, in my opinion, means this is a systemic issue because this dynamic and elitism could absolutely be avoided while still learning what we need to learn) or if this is an experience from those at PCO specifically. I imagine it is a mix of the two, but, guys, I am at a point where I wish the school to be audited for signs of emotional and mental abuse.

    To those who are enrolled at other schools (as well as alumni if you'd like, and also those at PCO), could you please tell me your story so far? How is your mental health right now? Has your self image changed since joining the program? Do you feel respected as a person, or looked down upon? Do you feel like your professors are colleagues? Are accommodations offered for you when you need them? Does your school try to fix the root of issues, or does it simply aim for the branches? How about your practicals? Are the expectations so ungodly high that perfectly able students are being dismissed for unnecessary reasons? Or are you given a chance that feels truly fair to you? Do you feel like you actually learn the information given to you? Or are you tested on how quickly you can memorize word associations and flash cards? Do you see your preceptors and attendings as guides, or as catalysts of shame and intimidation?

    I have been told that, after the second year at PCO, it gets "much better". I am banking on that, as that is the only thing getting me through these weeks currently. Whether that is true or not, what is happening right now is not okay. I feel that a lot of graduates leave and never want to touch the school again, so they don't report what happened or file any type of complaint. I don't blame them, but, right now I have that anger and pain sitting at the forefront and I want to use it to help future students here if possible.

    Thank you for reading this, and thank you to anyone who shares their experience.
     
    • Care
    Reactions: 1 user

    UnicornOpt

    Full Member
    2+ Year Member
    Jan 7, 2018
    57
    46
      Woah. Hope you feel better after writing this. I have no idea what the heck you are experiencing and what you are describing because honestly it didn't make sense to me, but it sounds like you're suffocating. You've got to do what you need to do to take control of your life and make it the best you can. If your institution isn't supportive, and you don't have a supportive network, then you have to carve your own path.

      I'll be honest with you, I rarely had to memorize in optometry school. I didn't find it effective looking at some of my class notes so I just read intro textbooks at the school library that were helpful or I spoke with upperclassmen who were helping. If you're studying or practice isn't paying off, then it sounds like you need to reach out to new avenues of learning. I don't know what ungodly high expectations are in practicals, but if you cannot produce a correct answer or achieve the same goals that NBEO boards examinations set, then doesn't that mean you didn't accomplish what the practical is setting you up to achieve?

      I mean I see some very advanced cases in practice all the time - no standard -2.00 D myope - and I have to think about what I'm doing to get the best answer I can for my patient. And if I don't give it all I have to help this guy, what's my job taking his money and selling him garbage. I would imagine your practical settings are more standard and simple, so sometimes you've got to do what is minimally competent, so I wonder what these high unrealistic expectations you are facing. I had a foreign language patient with such a large pterygium that it induced corneal astigmatism, and I could get no retinoscopy reflex, and I could get no autorefractor data, and I just had to rely on simple understanding of subj refraction and collapsing sturns conoid with power searching that I ultimately got him 20/30. I knew he wasn't amblyopic because he reported he had good vision in that eye in his youth. I sweat bullets thinking about how I would help this guy in my chair, but I used my knowledge to ultimately get this goal.

      I was a student once, and I'm not underplaying what you're going through, but if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I'm not saying to quit and give up, but continuing what you're doing doesn't sound productive or healthy for you if you came to an internet forum that gets little traffic to vent. Like I mentioned above, do what you've got to do to live your life and learn and take control, which may mean you have to change habits up.

      Rosenberg has a nice intro textbook that covers years 1,2,3 that they use at SUNY. I got it through the library system while I was in my optometry school elsewhere. I read that alongside my own class notes. I got tutored by upperclassmen. And I went on to be a finalist at quizbowl. And I bought male sex toys to help blow off some steam
       

      Leftpaw

      Full Member
      2+ Year Member
      Jun 6, 2019
      95
      16
      1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
        I'm a first-year and I have some of the same feelings as well: always feeling behind and struggling to just pass the courses when compared to my seemingly brilliant colleagues (somehow passed and even did better than average on a few of the standard exams though). My practical exam went poorly and I'll hopefully get a chance to plead my case before the professor to salvage my grade: I frankly blanked out and just flailed through that entire section.

        On one hand, I wish for some mercy - it feels like a tsunami of academia washing over me. On the other hand, I also understand why they make the system hard: the patients have high expectations and the boards aren't kind to the unprepared.

        For now at least, I just want to survive so I can graduate and return home with a career. I have thrown ideas of residencies and other high-minded goals out of my head.
         
        Last edited:
        • Care
        Reactions: 1 user
        About the Ads

        OD 1993

        New Member
        Jul 31, 2021
        3
        1
        1. Optometrist
          I'm a first-year and I have some of the same feelings as well: always feeling behind and struggling to just pass the courses when compared to my seemingly brilliant colleagues (somehow passed and even did better than average on a few of the standard exams though). My practical exam went poorly and I'll hopefully get a chance to plead my case before the professor to salvage my grade: I frankly blanked out and just flailed through that entire section.

          On one hand, I wish for some mercy - it feels like a tsunami of academia washing over me. On the other hand, I also understand why they make the system hard: the patients have high expectations and the boards aren't kind to the unprepared.

          For now at least, I just want to survive so I can graduate and return home with a career. I have thrown ideas of residencies and other high-minded goals out of my head.
          I’m not sure I follow you. Your school is emotionally abusive towards its professional students ?
          Could it be the workload is overwhelming for you ? I was once an optometry student and I studied hard to understand material and memorized tons of information that I had to with understanding concepts behind them to take exams and pass.

          Is the academic faculty looking to weed out students ? I don’t get your point totally.

          It was my understanding decades ago, that faculty does not want their own students failing out. The first two years are tough and they try to help you and do everything they can to help you succeed.

          I can see your point come third year and primarily fourth year during clinical rotations. Yes, some clinical preceptors and faculty at rotations can give you some sort of emotional abuse for any reason especially if you’re not up to par with your clinical skills, knowledge base and Dx and Tx of pts. They expect you to perform at the level that you should be at.
          Academically ? Hard to follow you on that.
           

          Leftpaw

          Full Member
          2+ Year Member
          Jun 6, 2019
          95
          16
          1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
            I’m not sure I follow you. Your school is emotionally abusive towards its professional students ?
            Could it be the workload is overwhelming for you ? I was once an optometry student and I studied hard to understand material and memorized tons of information that I had to with understanding concepts behind them to take exams and pass.

            Is the academic faculty looking to weed out students ? I don’t get your point totally.

            It was my understanding decades ago, that faculty does not want their own students failing out. The first two years are tough and they try to help you and do everything they can to help you succeed.

            I can see your point come third year and primarily fourth year during clinical rotations. Yes, some clinical preceptors and faculty at rotations can give you some sort of emotional abuse for any reason especially if you’re not up to par with your clinical skills, knowledge base and Dx and Tx of pts. They expect you to perform at the level that you should be at.
            Academically ? Hard to follow you on that.

            Oh! My school isn't emotionally abusive - the students are great and the teachers are kind. I met with them to discuss some of my less-than-stellar midterms and they're nice about providing help to succeed within the system.

            I'm just personally frustrated in myself for not really performing up to the highest standards...and that is just due to the material itself. The professors could be saints on Earth and it wouldn't make a difference - optometry school is hard because it is and has to be hard.

            It isn't really anger at the system - it is more resignation to the fact that it is something that has to be overcome. Optometry school has to be hard because the expectations of both the boards and the patients are high - they expect quality and we as students have to deliver on that standard.
             
            About the Ads

            Your message may be considered spam for the following reasons:

            1. Your new thread title is very short, and likely is unhelpful.
            2. Your reply is very short and likely does not add anything to the thread.
            3. Your reply is very long and likely does not add anything to the thread.
            4. It is very likely that it does not need any further discussion and thus bumping it serves no purpose.
            5. Your message is mostly quotes or spoilers.
            6. Your reply has occurred very quickly after a previous reply and likely does not add anything to the thread.
            7. This thread is locked.