Coronavirus: RCVS introduces further supportive measures for veterinary students regarding EMS placements

7 April 2020

The RCVS COVID-19 Taskforce has introduced further measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and its associated restrictions, on veterinary students.

Last month, prior to the ‘lockdown’ phase being announced by the UK Government, the RCVS decided to reduce the number of weeks of extra-mural studies (EMS) that final year veterinary students are required to complete their veterinary degree to 30 weeks. This was in light of the difficulties that may be involved in finding and completing placements in the time available before graduation.

In light of the further restrictions to prevent COVID-19 transmissions that have been introduced since then, as well as the amount of time they are expected to last and the impact this has had on many veterinary practices, the COVID-19 Taskforce reviewed EMS requirements further with respect to students currently in 4th year and below. The decision, which was also agreed with the VSC which represents the eight RCVS-accredited UK veterinary schools, is that current 4th year students should not be prevented from graduating providing they have completed their 12 weeks pre-clinical EMS and at least 50% (13 weeks) of clinical EMS, in addition to demonstrating that they have achieved all the RCVS Day One Competences.

Sue Paterson, Chair of our Education Committee and a member of the COVID-19 Taskforce, commented: “Although the longer term impact of the restrictions on veterinary business is currently unknown, it is reasonable to assume that there may be longer-term challenges around EMS placements that may continue beyond the time at which restrictions are revoked.

“The impact of the constraints imposed will differ across different vet school curricula. However, the impact on all students currently in their 4th year of study is likely to be significant.

“We understand that the vet schools will do all they can to continue to provide a world-class veterinary education to their students during the pandemic and do their best to support their students in completing their EMS. These efforts are very much appreciated. We would also like to thank members of the Veterinary Schools Council for discussing and agreeing to implement these temporary changes.”

The impact of the pandemic and restrictions on students in the 3rd year and below were also considered by the COVID-19 Taskforce, and it was decided that this should be kept under review. Although it was recognised that there may also be an impact on these students in terms of the EMS they are able to complete, this is likely to be less than for those in 4th and final year.

Furthermore, the extent of the impact in the longer term should be considered when more information regarding the impact on veterinary businesses and placements was available.

The COVID-19 Taskforce also discussed and agreed that, as veterinary schools may need to introduce alternative assessment methods for their students, particularly final year students, in light of the pandemic and associated restrictions, then they would need to notify the RCVS regarding the nature of the changes, in addition to the quality assurance measures being put in place to ensure standards are not compromised. These changes would then be monitored by the RCVS Primary Qualifications Subcommittee, to ensure they meet with the our accreditation standards.

Sue Paterson added: “We recognise that the constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic mean that vet schools will need to implement alternative methods of assessment and strategies for implementation.

“While we do not prescribe the specific approach that should be used for assessment, as different approaches may be appropriate depending on the curriculum model, our accreditation standards do require that the approach to assessment is robust, valid and reliable in providing assurance that Day One Competences have been achieved by students upon graduation.”

In addition to the changes agreed for veterinary students, the RCVS Veterinary Nurses (VN) Council will be meeting next week to consider whether further changes regarding VN students are possible in response to the ongoing pandemic.

A full range of FAQs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and how the restrictions have impacted the veterinary professions can be found on our dedicated coronavirus webpage

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