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Stephen May

Page history last edited by sceptrept 11 years, 6 months ago

Developing the Professional Skills of the “Veterinary Team”

Stephen May, RoyalVeterinaryCollege


Over the past 15 years, the RoyalVeterinaryCollege has

diversified from being a “monotechnic”, educating veterinary surgeons, to a college for the developing “veterinary team”, through pioneering degree programmes for veterinary nurses, veterinary physiotherapists and bioveterinary scientists.   As in other areas of science, the focus of curricula has moved away from knowledge transmission to the development of key skills.  This presentation concentrates on parallel developments in two courses: the five-year clinical programme (BVetMed) and three-year honours degree in Bioveterinary Science (BSc).


Both courses have novel taught strands in key and professional skills.  Each deals with relevant behaviours and interpersonal skills as well as processes important to professional function, such as clinical reasoning (BVetMed) and scientific philosophy and methods (BVetMed, BSc).  These form the foundation for the major practice elements of each course: clinical practice (BVetMed) and research projects in years 1, 2 and 3 (BSc) and years 2 and 4/5 (BVetMed).


Students with science backgrounds seem less used to any learning which goes beyond factual recall.  Many also seem to have been put off project work.  Therefore, all educators in these strands have to work hard to encourage students to engage fully, and appreciate the relevance to their professional lives.  However, there is evidence that employers and graduates recognise the value of these approaches.  It is also increasingly clear that for a number of students on the BSc programme, the research experience has had a transforming effect, diverting them into science PhDs , away from their original intention of applying for BVetMed graduate entry.


The College has always encouraged students to publish and present their projects at external, in addition to internal, scientific conferences.  It has recently appointed a “research champion” to help add this dimension of professional development to the experience of a greater proportion of undergraduate students.  The College has also recently been accredited to examine the new RCVS Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice, which includes a large Professional Skills module, providing continued learning opportunities beyond graduation.


A number of these elements have existed previously as “bolt-ons” to traditional curricula.  However, these were frequently unsuccessful due to a lack of integration with other classroom-based teaching and work-based learning, and a lack of effective assessment.  The increasing coherence within College-controlled vertically and horizontally integrated curricula has meant that student engagement, understanding of process, and output have increased, benefiting them, in terms of employability, for their future careers.


Key words:  Professional skills, undergraduate research, integrated curricula






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