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Graduate outcomes consultation

Susan Dawson - RCVS Council Member & Chair of Education Committee

Next month, at the London Vet Show, the RCVS will be launching what is probably one of its most far-reaching and significant consultations of the last 20 years that encompasses no less than the very bedrock of our profession – the veterinary degree – and how we transform veterinary students into veterinary surgeons and support their professional development in those crucial early years.

Taking time to consider the big picture

Susan DawsonAs the Graduate Outcomes consultation is so important and broad in scope, we are looking for a similar breadth of experience, opinions and ideas in the responses we get back. Before I launch into the details of the consultation, however, I just wanted to give you an overview of the background that has led us to this point.

For some time we have been aware of concerns within the veterinary profession around the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary graduates, often due to a mismatch of their ideal expectations of clinical practice and the reality. Factors such as increasing client expectations and the increase in scientific knowledge and treatment techniques have exacerbated this trend, contributing to the issues around recruitment and retention.

From the point of view of educators, we have long been aware of the possibility of ‘knowledge overload’ with veterinary students potentially learning an ever-increasing amount about many different aspects of veterinary medicine but maybe not developing those broader professional competences, such as communication, reflection and decision-making, that are crucial to life in practice.

These viewpoints were cemented by our joint Vet Futures consultation with the BVA which, upon surveying recent graduates, found that many of them were struggling with the transition. The Vet Futures Action Plan, published in July 2017, therefore identified a need to review the outcomes for veterinary graduates as well as the purpose and relevance of extra-mural studies.

The challenges are significant, but the solutions are not beyond our collective ken – the consultation framework is deliberately open to encourage both broad thinking and novel approaches for what might work best for all involved. What we need is honest yet constructive feedback from veterinary professionals of all ages, backgrounds, experiences and sectors so that we have as holistic a view as possible to work with.

We’ve divided the consultation into four core areas – Day-one Competences, the Professional Development Phase, extra-mural studies and clinical education for general practice.

Day-one Competences are the skills and attributes required of veterinary graduates to work safely and independently on entering practice and, with the Graduate Outcomes consultation, we are seeking feedback on a new model, with a greater focus on those critically important ‘professional skills’ such as communication, collaboration, self-reflection and clinical reasoning.

The aspect of the consultation covering the Professional Development Phase, which acts as a structured bridge between life as a veterinary student and clinical practice, builds on research conducted last year which identified a need for a more structured PDP programme and we will be putting forward some suggestions about what this could look like.

In terms of the extra-mural studies component, it has long been apparent that student experiences of EMS have been quite varied, and the placements themselves can be relatively unstructured in terms of the experiences gained by the placements. The consultation explores whether EMS could be restructured to fall towards the end of the veterinary degree and act as a bridge between the degree and the Professional Development Phase.

Finally, the clinical education dimension will be looking at how the veterinary degree can ensure there is an appropriate balance of general practice and specialist experience so that students are prepared for as wide an array of clinical experiences as possible. 

Our plans are certainly ambitious and over the last few years as a member of the Graduate Outcomes Working Group and Chair of the Education Committee, I have been thrilled to have played my part in developing this consultation. However, we need to develop these plans hand in hand with the profession and that is why I want to emphasise again the critical importance of your feedback. With such a big picture to consider, we hope that you can set aside some time to send us your views, and I can assure you it will be time very well spent. Thank you.

Be part of the Big Picture at London Vet Show!

The first stage of the consultation will launch on 15 November 2018 and run until 18 January 2019. More information, including how you can respond, will be published shortly at

If you’re heading to London Vet Show this year, please visit us on stand number N72 to find out more. You can collect a printed copy of the consultation document and a free gift, and take part in our Big Picture competition!

Published on 31 October 2018

Tags: Consultations Lifelong learning PDP Vet & VN Futures