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VetGDP 3: advising for the future

Veterinary Graduate Development Programme (VetGDP) advisers will be central to supporting new graduates as they set, and reach, their professional development goals and settle into life as a veterinary professional. In this article, the third in our series from the RCVS, we hear from three senior vets about their reasons for becoming VetGDP advisers and their experience of the online training they are undertaking.

Now that the majority of the Veterinary Graduate Development Programme (VetGDP) adviser online training modules are available to access, over 850 vets are actively participating in the training. These vets have an average of 15 years on the UK practising register, meaning that the next cohort of new graduates will benefit from their expertise and experience as they transition from vet student to vet professional.

In addition to the overarching framework of Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs) and a bespoke e-portfolio for the programme, the introduction of VetGDP advisers is one of the key changes differentiating the VetGDP from the Professional Development Phase, by bringing one-to-one support directly into the everyday working environment.

The training that is now underway is vital for helping VetGDP advisers fulfil their remit to provide feedback, guide reflection and goal setting through coaching, provide support and supervision, and review the progress of the recent graduate under their wing.

The e-learning has been developed carefully to bring the latest evidence from international medical education research to the VetGDP context. Accordingly, the course was built with input from leaders in medical education and uses a mix of recorded presentations, academic papers, reflective exercises and self-directed learning to develop the knowledge and skills to support a new graduate in becoming an independent and confident vet.

The six modules, which each represent around two to three hours of CPD, are:

  • Module 1 – Understanding the VetGDP and the VetGDP adviser role;
  • Module 2 – How to support your graduate effectively: best practice to achieve positive outcomes;
  • Module 3 – Exploring reactions, guiding reflection and providing feedback;
  • Module 4 – Supporting your graduate's progress: educational alliances, coaching for change and goal setting;
  • Module 5 – Supporting a graduate who is struggling: mentoring and support;
  • Module 6 – Applying VetGDP adviser skills in different scenarios.

At present, practices that have at least one vet who has started their VetGDP adviser training, and who aims to complete it before the end of this calendar year, will be able to support members of the 2021 graduate cohort from this summer.

If you are interested in signing up to become a VetGDP adviser and undertake the training, visit https://bit.ly/2RnPNlL. Please bear in mind that only vets who have been registered for three years or more may currently undertake the training. You can also email vetgdp@rcvs.org.uk for further information.

Here, we hear from three vets who have started the VetGDP advisers' training.

Tim Hutchinson

Tim Hutchinson is the managing partner of Larkmead Vets, a large mixed practice in south Oxfordshire. He is also a director of XLVets – a community of independent practices.

Why did you choose to sign up to the training?

Veterinary education has evolved massively in the 27 years since I graduated. Previously there seemed very much to be a cliff edge: one day you were a student, the next you were a vet, and while it was recognised that a newly graduated vet would still have a lot to learn, there was no formal process in place for this. We are now, rightly, recognising that learning is lifelong and, upon graduating from university, young vets will benefit from a transitionary phase in which they can work as a vet, but feel supported as they continue to develop. My practice regularly employs graduates, benefitting from the energy and enthusiasm they bring to the team; the VetGDP is perfect for augmenting our own graduate programme and the training will be of benefit to our in-house mentor scheme.

How have you found it so far and what have you learned?

The beauty of the VetGDP appears to be the way it offers a framework for development without becoming a prescriptive tick-box exercise. This structure can be adapted to any graduate in any role and benefits from helping their development through reflection on the real cases they are seeing on a daily basis, rather than being a forced exercise in trying to find a certain case to illustrate something for the sake of completing a form. The VetGDP training to become an adviser can be worked through at your own pace and really helps to raise awareness of how we can all learn and develop more effectively. Parts of it may seem a little ‘dry’, but I am sure that is the same for anything!

How do you feel you will apply the VetGDP for new graduates in practice?

As mentioned previously, the VetGDP will perfectly augment our own graduate training/mentoring programme. It will be a real benefit for the graduates and their advisers to have such an adaptable structure around which they can base their discussions and reflections.

Rob Williams

Rob Williams is head of organisational development at VetPartners and programme director for VetPartners Graduate Development Programmes.

Why did you choose to sign up to the training?

I signed up for a number of reasons. Part of my role at VetPartners is managing our different graduate programmes so I wanted to be fully conversant with the VetGDP, both what the structure of the programme is and the training undertaken by VetGDP advisers, and I wanted to complete the training in order to be available as a locum VetGDP adviser for graduates working at VetPartners practices. I was also curious to see what the latest thinking and practice was on early career support in human medical education, as I was aware that this was included in the training.

How have you found it so far and what have you learned?

I think the training is really insightful in how to give feedback when coaching and mentoring early career medical professionals in a relatable and supportive way, and also how mentees receive feedback. I think even with the best of intentions from the mentor perspective it can be really easy to give feedback and development advice that doesn't have the desired effect.

I think the way the online adviser programme is structured, with a mix of knowledge summaries of the latest research, copies of research articles and the group discussions on giving feedback and support to medical graduates from the expert panel, is a good mix of content from a learner's perspective. The expert panel relay their advice both from their own experience and their research findings in a simple and clear manner.

How do you feel you will apply the VetGDP for new graduates in practice?

I think the R2C2 model referred to throughout the training is a really practical way to deliver feedback in a way that is likely to help the graduates to develop. I think the aspects of the model relating to exploring the graduate's reaction to and understanding of the feedback from their adviser is something that will be transformative for both sides of the mentoring relationship, as I suspect this is part of what is not properly understood or practised well currently. So, I will definitely include this when giving feedback both for graduates but also in other interactions at work. I also think including coaching to improve performance following feedback will really add value to the relationship and hopefully help the mentee achieve their development goals. Having benefitted from coaching myself, this is something I can see being really useful to round out the feedback.

Robin Hargreaves 

Robin Hargreaves is a past-president of the BVA and is currently director at the Lancashire-based Stanley House Veterinary Group.

Why did you choose to sign up to the training?

I am doing it because we are employing a 2021 graduate in a few weeks. I am impressed by the principle. The use of EPAs is a much more intuitive and flexible way to build confidence and competence than gathering a list of specified activities.

How have you found it so far and what have you learned?

I sense that it will be quite demanding to fully engage with the process and schedule the necessary contact time, but that said I also sense that it will be an enjoyable process with an enthusiastic graduate.

It is probably impractical to have large numbers of the vet team complete the VetGDP adviser's training, with all the competing demands of clinical CPD and further qualifications. Maybe there could be a shorter awareness webinar that outlines the principles, perhaps drawn from the early parts of the course, so that vets and nurses not taking the actual training would know the general approach to reflection and building experience within designated EPAs.

How do you feel you will apply the VetGDP for new graduates in practice?

With three branches, we will have to think about our rotas in more detail than usual so as to allow the graduate to work in parallel with one vet (me in this case). I have actually been thinking that we have a 2020 graduate for whom this would have been ideal and we may try to tailor some sort of similar programme to support their second year. Completing the first module of the adviser's training has had me reflecting on the way I developed in the early years of my own career. This type of mandatory structured support would have entirely changed my early career and altered its trajectory completely.

This article first appeared in Volume 188, Issue 10 of the Veterinary Record and published on 21 May 2021. It has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Veterinary Record

August 2021