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Making a career comeback – vets’ support and guidance availability

First published in Vet Times on 11 May

After deciding to return to practice after a break, you’re probably raring to go and want to start your new job as soon as possible. However, you may also be feeling some apprehension.

It can be daunting to return to practice after a career break – especially if you have been off the register for several years and are unsure whether your knowledge is up to date. Will you need to learn any new skills? How will you find engaging with clients again? What are the steps you need to take before joining a new employer?

Veterinary Graduate Development Programme

In summer 2021, the RCVS launched the Veterinary Graduate Development Programme (VetGDP), which supports new graduates through the first few years of their veterinary career while they develop their confidence and gain more experience. However, the VetGDP also supports those who have had a break from veterinary practice and want to return to the profession.

The programme was first developed in response to detailed feedback from the profession during the 2018-19 Graduate Outcomes consultation, which looked at how graduates could be supported during their transition into working life. The consultation revealed that the profession felt more was needed to help it support new graduates to develop professional and clinical skills during their first role in practice.

The VetGDP allows veterinary professionals to track their progress and reflect on their achievements, and encourages learners to put together a tailored plan so they can identify the areas that they need support with. Everyone who enrols on the programme also has a VetGDP advisor – a vet who has been on the register for at least three years who works alongside the graduate or returner to support them through the crucial stages of their new veterinary role.


Linda Prescott-Clements, director of education at the RCVS, said: “Since introducing the VetGDP last summer, we’ve seen how beneficial new graduates have found the programme, and in particular, having a VetGDP advisor who can work with them individually on their progress.

“We know that vets who are returning to practice after several years off the register may feel nervous and need support as they refresh their skills and update their knowledge. This is why we believe that returners to the profession will also benefit from enrolling on the VetGDP.”

Anyone who has been off the register for five years or more must enrol on the VetGDP programme when they start a new job, to ensure they get the right level of support. If you’ve been off the register for less time than this, you don’t have to enrol on to the VetGDP, but you are more than welcome to join if you think you would find it beneficial to have additional support as you transition back to life in practice.

To join VetGDP, visit the RCVS website and take a look at the step-by-step registration guide (


If you need to enrol on to the VetGDP, one of the first things you will need to do is to find out if the practice or workplace you want to work at is a VetGDP Approved Graduate Development Practice or Workplace.

All approved practices will have at least one member of the veterinary team who will have completed our VetGDP training and will be equipped to support, mentor and coach. They will have signed an agreement to dedicate some time every week to carrying out one-to-one support with a new graduate or returner to the profession.

Often, practices will display the VetGDP logo on their website or recruitment portal, but if you aren’t sure about their status, you can always ask before you go for an interview. Many practices appreciate the value that the programme has, so they will likely be open to any questions about the VetGDP or their future plans to join VetGDP.

Advice and feedback

One of the key benefits of joining the scheme is having a VetGDP advisor who will provide advice and feedback, support you to set achievable goals and encourage you to reflect on your progress. Having a VetGDP advisor is a valuable opportunity for those returning to practice to learn from an experienced veterinary colleague who can help as you transition back to practice.

Dr Prescott-Clements said: ”We have had some very positive feedback from both new graduates and VetGDP advisors about how beneficial they have found the experience of working together.

“For vets returning to the UK practising register, it’s an opportunity to update and refresh clinical and client interaction skills that can make the transition into working in a busy practice less daunting. For practices, being part of the VetGDP shows a commitment to nurturing new employees and helps to create a fulfilling and collaborative practice team.”

The RCVS Education team recognises that anyone returning to the profession will be a fully qualified vet with experience of the veterinary workplace.

Susan Paterson, who chairs the RCVS education committee, is a practising vet who has been involved with the roll-out of the VetGDP. As well as being an advocate for the programme, she is keen to allay any concerns that joining the VetGDP will result in returners spending their time reviewing clinical capabilities or being checked up on.

She explained: “New surgical approaches and medical therapies are always in development, and practices are constantly innovating and developing new ways of carrying out clinical work. Having a VetGDP advisor to work with you and support you while you upskill and regain your clinical acumen in your transition back to practice will be extremely helpful.

“Practice life has changed over the past two years as the practice team has had to adapt to new ways of working, due to enforced changes through Covid-19 and due to increased pet ownership brought on largely by the pandemic.

“The financial pressures of pet ownership – particularly new pet ownership in the current economic climate – have undoubtedly created additional challenges around the demands on veterinary care, making the support of a VetGDP advisor for returners important.

“We hope that giving the returner the opportunity to work collaboratively with their advisor and talk to them about their knowledge gaps so they can get up to speed on current veterinary practice will provide the support to encourage more veterinary surgeons to make that step back into clinical work.”

Any questions about the VetGDP from returners to the profession or practices can be emailed to [email protected]

May 2022