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New report of second national survey on veterinary graduate competency published

24 June 2020

The Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have today published the results of the Graduate and Employer Survey for 2019. 

New data will allow UK veterinary schools to begin to compare current perceptions of recent graduate competency to the results of the first national survey conducted in 2017.

Respondents rated graduates across core competencies using an online survey and were also able to leave free-text comments. Overall, surveyed employers remained confident in graduates’ clinical skills and were particularly impressed by their sedation and anaesthetic skills. Nearly half of employers used the free text comments to commend graduates for their communication skills, enthusiasm and empathy, praising their ‘passion for animal welfare’.

In the areas where employers rated recent graduates less well, their financial and business management skills received the lowest average score. While most employers believed their graduate could work within financial constraints, some noted in their free-text responses that graduates sometimes struggled with providing cost-limited treatment that compromised the gold standard, fully investigative model taught at university.

Veterinary educators will be pleased to note that 95% of graduates who responded to the survey expressed satisfaction with their choice of veterinary course. Two thirds of the surveyed graduates  agreed or strongly agreed that their degree had helped their current proficiency in decision-making and four fifths of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that EMS had prepared them for entering the workforce.

Feedback from the survey will help veterinary schools to continue to ensure that the education they provide is aligned with the needs of the profession. It is important to note that the views expressed in these surveys relate to different cohorts of graduates. Surveyed graduates completed their degrees between 2013 and 2015, while employers responded about their most recent employee who graduated between 2017 and 2018. As the surveys are repeated over time, they could enable comparisons to be drawn between the views of employers on graduate competency and those of the graduates themselves.

Interestingly, in this survey employers were more likely to report that their graduates were willing to approach them with stress issues than surveyed graduates. Emotional resilience is a major concern within the veterinary community, with campaigns raising awareness and providing support. Over time it is hoped that these initiatives will improve the public consciousness of stress and resilience within veterinary practice.

The survey was developed by the Veterinary Schools Council Education Committee in collaboration with the Work Psychology Group. Both the RCVS and VSC distributed the survey.

On the publication of the survey, Prof. Susan Rhind, Chair of the Veterinary Schools Council Education Committee, said:

“As veterinary educators we welcome the publication of new data on recent graduate competence. We believe that improvements to veterinary education should be based on evidence which is strengthened by these new data. The findings from this survey will bolster our efforts to improve on perceived areas of weaker competence in our veterinary graduates.

“We are particularly pleased to see that 95% of surveyed graduates reported that they were satisfied with their choice of veterinary course, which undoubtedly reflects the high quality of veterinary education in this country. Following the release of the first national survey in 2017 veterinary schools have considered ways in which they can improve on lower rated areas of competence, such as graduates’ knowledge of financial management.

"The publication of the new data will provide more nuanced information on graduate competence and the Veterinary Schools Council’s Education Committee will continue to work with the profession to address any perceived areas for improvement.”

Susan DawsonProf. Susan Dawson (pictured right), Chair of the Veterinary Schools Council and Chair of the RCVS Mind Matters mental health initiative said:

“Two years ago we committed to improving our understanding of the roles of graduates in veterinary practice by delivering the first joint survey on recent graduate competency. Since conducting that first survey we’ve met with employers’ groups to discuss the findings, the veterinary curriculum and the complexities around areas such as emotional resilience. 

“We are pleased to see some signs that employers are more confident in graduates’ resilience than they were in 2017. In recent years the veterinary community has invested in initiatives to raise awareness of workplace stress and support graduates through the transition to working within veterinary practice. These statistics may indicate that our joint and individual strategies are working.

"I chair the RCVS Mind Matters mental health initiative, where we have been focusing on improving student and recent graduate mental health and welfare. Last year we held a Student Mental Health Roundtable with representatives from both the faculties and the student bodies of UK vet schools. We will be be drawing up a series of actions and recommendations based on the discussions we had there.

“Finally, this survey was commissioned before the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst it is impossible to predict the full impact of the pandemic on the veterinary profession, it is reasonable to believe that it will have an impact on employee wellbeing. For this reason, in the next version of this survey it will be important to consider the impact the crisis has had on the professional environment that future cohorts will be working in.”

Linda Prescott-ClementsDr Linda Prescott-Clements (pictured right), RCVS Director of Education, added:

“We recognise the importance of gathering good outcomes data for the continual quality improvement of veterinary education programmes and were happy to support the implementation of this survey. We would urge as many graduates and employers as possible to take the time to complete these surveys, as they provide valuable insight into the quality of UK veterinary education.”


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