Veterinary employers have responded to the first joint survey of graduates from veterinary schools in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. They praised graduates’ competencies in key areas of work while highlighting aspects where improvement can be made.
Respondents rated their most recent graduate on a range of different competencies using an on-line survey and were also able to leave free-text comments. Overall, employers rated the communications skills of graduates highly, as well as the ability to collaborate and take initiative in driving their own learning. While clinical skills rated well overall, surgery skills were commonly noted as an aspect of this which was not at the same level.
The highest scoring category was empathy, and in the free-text responses it was consistently noted that graduates have excellent empathy with clients and animals, in particular on matters of euthanasia.
One respondent said:
‘They show greater empathy towards patients and owners than I remember from my days as a student… and they will therefore be perhaps better role models in time than my generation of veterinarians.’
In the areas rated less well, financial and business management received the lowest average score. An aspect of this arose in the free-text responses, with some employers noting a lack of understanding of clients’ financial constraints. Another lower-scoring area was emotional resilience.
Another respondent said of their graduate:
‘Sometimes allowed emotion to get in the way of the decision-making process. Occasionally showed a lack of resilience when discussing outcome of cases…’
Veterinary schools have previously surveyed employers as individual universities. This new unified survey, run through the Veterinary Schools Council, will reduce the burden on employers while building a stronger body of data which can be used to ensure that veterinary schools are producing the graduates that employers need.
The survey was developed by the Veterinary Schools Council Education Committee in collaboration of the Work Psychology Group. Its distribution was facilitated by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Professor Susan Rhind, Chair of the Education Committee, said:
‘This data allows us to get the broadest sense we have ever had of how our graduates are transitioning into the professional environment. There will always be ups and downs during this experience, and the voice of employers is key to understanding how to prepare students for this important period.
‘In particular we are pleased that graduates seem overall to be working with a sense of initiative and an ability to drive their continued learning. Together with employers it is essential that they treat the transition from university to the workplace as a step on the continuum of training which will go on throughout their careers.’
Professor Ewan Cameron, Chair of the Veterinary Schools Council, said:
‘It is the strong desire of veterinary schools that these results will form the basis of an ongoing national engagement between employers and educators. It’s a vital relationship and one we are committed to building on.
‘An interesting point suggested by the results is the possibility that generations might differ from one another; this is of course nuanced and should not be over simplified. However, the data suggests that emotional resilience can be an issue for some graduates, while on empathy they are remarkably strong. It would not be unreasonable to suspect that there may be a connection between these characteristics. Therefore it is with a sense of balance that we must recognise where new generations can be supported while at the same time appreciating where they excel.’
If you would like to comment on the structure of the survey or offer suggestions for future iterations, you can do so on the Veterinary Schools Council website.
Notes to editors
- 1The Veterinary Schools Council is the representative body for veterinary schools in the UK, Ireland and Netherlands. Consisting of seven UK members and two non-UK associate members, we provide a source of informed opinion on matters concerning veterinary education, from the welfare of students and academic researchers to links with government and industry. We engage in representative and policy work to ensure that the voice of veterinary schools is recognised for its experience, innovation and commitment to the proper care of animals. For more on the work of the Veterinary Schools Council, see www.vetschoolscouncil.ac.uk and @ukvetschools.
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