PDP Research

Outcomes of the joint RCVS and BSAVA research project

The Education Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has agreed to significant short-term changes to the Professional Development Phase (PDP), which helps new veterinary graduates transition into veterinary practice, to provide further support to participants.

This follows a jointly-funded research project by the RCVS and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) to evaluate how effective the PDP is in supporting graduates during the transition from veterinary school to veterinary practice.

The research was undertaken by the Work Psychology Group and included online surveys, telephone interviews and a focus group with both recent graduates and representatives from practices that are currently employing recent graduates. The overall aim was to understand both positive and negative experiences of the PDP amongst veterinary graduates and their employers considering existing obstacles to learning and development, any gaps in support provision and common areas of confusion, anxiety and concern.

RCVS would like to thank everyone that took the time to give their views and are pleased that this report provides such a solid foundation on which to base necessary changes. What came across very strongly from the feedback was that, the overall purpose and aims of the PDP were welcomed by graduates, employers and other stakeholders as something that is useful and good for the profession. Most agreed that having a formal support mechanism for graduates is essential for navigating the transition between the structured environment of veterinary school to the ‘coalface’ of veterinary practice.

However, it was also clear that there are issues with the PDP in its current format.  Feedback included the view that it is a ‘tick-box’ or ‘check-list’ exercise in which the number of tasks completed is seen as more important than a focus on qualitative aspects such as confidence and progression, and that there is a lack of focus on development of non-clinical skills.

The Work Psychology Group came up with a series of recommendations which were approved by the PDP Working Group in December 2017 and then by Education Committee in February 2018. Some of these recommendations, as set out below, can be actioned in the short-term and it’s hoped that these will rectify some of the concerns that were raised. In the longer-term the future of the PDP and the further recommendations of this research are also being considered as part of the Graduate Outcomes Project which is taking a more holistic view on the skills and competences of future veterinary professionals.

The short-term recommendations accepted by the RCVS Education Committee are:

  • Developing guidance to support graduates and employers through the process of reflection on their progress.
  • Considering how to build opportunities to capture and record reflective learning into the PDP.
  • Making it a requirement of the PDP that every graduate who is participating in the PDP has a named workplace mentor assigned to them, as well as a Postgraduate Dean.
  • Asking assigned mentors to sign-off their graduate’s progress on the PDP on a regular basis (eg every other month) and write a short commentary on the graduate’s progress on a six-monthly or annual basis.
  • Sharing resources between the BSAVA and RCVS looking at where further resources can be developed.
  • Gaining feedback from other professions as well as the veterinary schools regarding platforms that have been used for similar purposes and have been successful. This process would consider the key requirements of a PDP platform and ensure that the right questions are asked to gain feedback.

The full report from the Work Psychology Group is available in the related docunents box on this page.