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Extra-mural studies (EMS)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Following recent discussions with Vet Schools Council (VSC), RCVS Council has agreed to temporarily amend its Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) requirements for UK veterinary students, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Decisions for students currently in all years will have been communicated to students by their schools.

Read the temporary requirements for each year group.

What is EMS?

Extra Mural Studies (EMS) forms part of students’ overall clinical education, and EMS placements are a vital part of the veterinary degree as they provide a unique opportunity for students to gain valuable experience and practice skills acquired during the veterinary programme, in a further range of ‘real workplace learning’ contexts. Students are encouraged to identify their own intended learning outcomes for EMS, and take up EMS placements which they feel will benefit them most.

Unlike Intra Mural Rotations, there is no formal teaching or training delivered on EMS placements, but these are still valuable learning opportunities for students as they are able to augment the training they have already received with real life, hands-on experience that cannot necessarily be captured as part of the curriculum, to help them develop into capable and confident veterinary surgeons.  It is also an opportunity to give students experience in decision making, team working and communication, as well as offer an insight into how finances work in practices away from an IMR setting.

EMS placements offer an important insight and introduction into the professional career of a veterinary surgeon, and give vital experience to undergraduates before they graduate. EMS also represents the beginning of a life-long cycle of continuing their own professional development outside of a traditional teaching context, which continues after graduation and throughout their career. 

Students may inevitably acquire further knowledge and skills whilst on EMS placements. However, all Day One Competences must be covered by the clinical education delivered by the university, and EMS placements should not be used to address gaps within core clinical education.  

EMS is made up of:

  • the ‘pre-clinical’ or animal husbandry phase, which comprises a total of 12 weeks, and

  • clinical EMS, which comprises a total of 26 weeks: 

The EMS Policy & Guidance was updated and agreed by Council in November 2021 as part of the wider Accreditation Standards Review.

In 2014, recent graduates were asked to take part in a survey on EMS. Download the report of the survey.

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The aim of EMS

The aim of EMS is to enable students to gain practical experience in as many aspects of veterinary work as possible, including the handling of animals, to achieve proficiency in routine techniques, and give students first hand experience which will help them to develop as professionals. Specifically, EMS should enable students to:

  • develop their animal handling skills across a range of common domestic species 

  • develop their understanding of the practice and economics of animal management systems and animal industries

  • appreciate the importance of herd health and the epidemiological approach to production animal work

  • develop their understanding of practice economics and practice management

  • develop their understanding and gain further experience of medical and surgical treatments in a variety of species

  • develop communication skills for all aspects of veterinary work

  • expand their experience to those disciplines and species not fully covered within the university

  • appreciate the importance of animal welfare in animal production and in the practice of veterinary medicine

  • gain experience to help them appreciate the ethical and legal responsibilities of the veterinary surgeon in relation to individual clients, animals, the community and society

  • gain experience of a variety of veterinary working environments

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Guidance for clinical EMS placement providers

We do not define the number of weeks that must be spent on different types of placements or with different species (other than for 1 week per 3 main species during pre-clinical, AHEMS): it is up to the university and the student to plan a programme of placement the best suits the student's learning needs and complements the 'intra-mural' curriculum at the veterinary school.

The use of a 'base' practice enables the placement provider and the student to get to know each other over a longer period. Practices that operate as a 'base' practice for a student should be able to expect more of them over time; towards the end of the degree course, a student should be close to becoming a useful member of the practice team.

The practitioner's contribution to EMS is of vital importance. It is recommended that practices identify named individual(s) to act as EMS contact for students and the university, and that some time is set aside for entry and exit interviews with the students at the beginning and end of each placement.

It is recognised that this can sometimes be difficult given the pressures of practice life, but a few minutes preparation and induction at the outset will help to make the placement more productive for the practice and the student.

The practitioner’s aims should be to:

  • maintain and improve, where possible, students’ present knowledge and level of training

  • encourage students to become familiar with the use of simple instruments and with drug compounds, their trade names and applications

  • provide experience under practice conditions of as wide a range of medical and surgical conditions as possible

  • provide experience in handling routine consultations and procedures

  • encourage students to relate to and communicate with clients where appropriate

  • teach students about the non-clinical aspects of practice: interaction with clients, employers/employees and lay staff; care of practice property; the limitations that may be placed on clinical work in a commercial situation

  • teach students the importance of the above in relation to professional behaviour and practice income by illustrating, for example: how practice fees are calculated; how bad debts are dealt with; how practice is structured and financed

  • ensure students see the Practice Health and Safety Policy and appreciate how it applies to individuals.

Practices should not be inhibited from providing honest feedback to and about the student, and should contact the university's EMS coordinator if they want to discuss a particular student in more detail.

For a list of EMS coordinators at each school, please see the contacts list below.

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Guidance on supporting student learning

Before the placement:

Practitioners should discuss a proposed placement with the student, either by interview or by telephone, in order to ensure mutual compatibility at the start.

Each student should arrive at the placement with a set of objectives they're hoping to meet, and it will save time and make the placement more productive for both parties if these can be briefly discussed with the student at the outset.

It is helpful to explain any ‘rules’ relating to conduct in the practice, the relationship with practice personnel and clients, standards of dress, health and safety etc. 

Practices should check they have access to the latest guidance on EMS. The student should be able to give them a copy or point them to online guidance if necessary.

During the placement:

The extent of supervision that individual students require to achieve competence will only become apparent with time. An adequate level of competence cannot be assumed from the outset. The animal’s health and welfare must always be of prime concern and the supervision should reflect this.

If the student is unknown to the practice, it is worth spending a short time to determine his/her current knowledge and experience.

You can view the outline curricula of the clinical courses for each of the UK schools in the EMS summaries for individual schools. There may be slight variations in the way that each school manages its EMS and reviews its students’ progress on EMS.

The RCVS Day One Competences outline the knowledge, skills and competences that the veterinary student must achieve at graduation.

The overall objective is that in the first two clinical years the student becomes so competent at everyday procedures that they become part of the job, rather than the job itself.

At that stage, he/she should also be developing skills in recognising clinical signs and determining diagnoses and treatments, until by the end of in the final year he/she should be able to carry out a practitioner’s routine work under supervision. At graduation he/she should be capable of becoming a useful member of a practice team.

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Other EMS guidance

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Practice by students – regulations

As veterinary students are required to undertake acts of veterinary surgery as part of their clinical training, the acts that they can undertake are set down in the “Veterinary Surgeons (Practice by Students) (Amendment) Regulations 1993”.

The Regulations provide that students may:

  • examine animals, carry out diagnostic tests under the direction of a registered veterinary surgeon,

  • administer treatment under the supervision of a registered veterinary surgeon and

  • perform surgical operations under the direct and continuous supervision of a registered veterinary surgeon.

We have interpreted these as follows:

  • 'direction' means that the veterinary surgeon instructs the student as to the tests to be administered but is not necessarily present,

  • 'supervision' means that the veterinary surgeon is present on the premises and able to respond to a request for assistance if needed and,

  • 'direct and continuous supervision' means that the veterinary surgeon is present and giving the student his/her undivided personal attention.

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Feedback to the student

Each school should provide a student EMS feedback form for completion by the placement provider at the end of the placement. This information helps schools in their assessment of individual students and also helps to identify deficits in undergraduate education.

The return of these forms, combined with a short time spent in discussion with the student at the end of the placement, enables the student to review their progress prior to the next placement.

Schools also normally require an attendance certificate to be completed. It is the student's responsibility to bring and present the certificate for signature by the EMS contact at the placement.

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Student review of the placement

Students may be asked by their school to complete an EMS placement feedback form. This enables each school to evaluate its EMS programme and provides information for feedback to practices.

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Health and safety

Students are expected to adhere to the Health and Safety Policy of the practice in which they work and their attention should be drawn to this at the start of the placement.

In addition, the schools have a legal obligation to safeguard the students’ safety at work placements. These health and safety guidelines are representative of those given to students at each of the schools.

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Insurance cover

All the schools recommend that their students take BVA student membership which automatically provides students with free personal accident and personal liability insurance. For details of each school’s cover, please refer to the EMS summaries for individual schools.

Further details about BVA student insurance can be found on the BVA website. The student insurance policy does not include professional liability as students should be covered by their employers’ professional liability insurance.

The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons requires all veterinary surgeons to ensure that their professional activities are covered by professional indemnity insurance or equivalent arrangements. Such cover may be held individually or through an employer.

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EMS summaries for individual schools

Click on a link in the list below to view information for each school about their outline curriculum, an overview of the management of EMS at the school and a summary of insurance cover provided by the university.

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Contacts

The contact details for EMS Co-ordinators at individuals schools are detailed below:

Bristol
Miss Veronica Roberts  
E veronica.roberts@bristol.ac.uk

Cambridge
Dr Penny Watson  
E pjw36@cam.ac.uk

Edinburgh
Mr Andrew Gardiner  
E andrew.gardiner@ed.ac.uk

For attendance and feedback forms  
E ems2admin@lists.ed.ac.uk

Glasgow
Dr Philippa Yam  
E philippa.yam@glasgow.ac.uk

Liverpool
Dr Melanie Chapman
E melanie.chapman@liverpool.ac.uk

Nottingham
Mr Stephen Brogden
E stephen.brogden@nottingham.ac.uk

For admin/general enquiries  
E diane.hill@nottingham.ac.uk

Royal Veterinary College (RVC)
Dr Troy Gibson
E tgibson@rvc.ac.uk 

Dr Jane Tomlin
jtomlin@rvc.ac.uk

Surrey
Dr Luisa Soares
l.soares@surrey.ac.uk

Dr Megan Edwards
E m.edwards@surrey.ac.uk

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