Extra-mural studies, or EMS, are placements taken throughout the veterinary medicine degree which work to prepare students for life in the clinical environment. They are an essential part of veterinary education.
Current regulations set a minimum of 38 weeks of EMS during the course. This typically breaks down into 12 weeks on pre-clinical placements and 26 weeks of clinical placements, of which the first six weeks are preparatory for the final 20 weeks, which are undertaken in the clinical years of the degree. These time frames were laid out in 2011 in EMS Recommendations and Policy Guidance from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
The purpose of EMS is to provide students with real-life experience in a range of areas, from animal handling and working with clients in the hospital setting to gaining an understanding of the ethical and legal responsibilities required of the veterinary surgeon. Each veterinary school publishes the outline of its own EMS curriculum and these can be found on their websites.
Students are advised to take British Veterinary Association student membership in order to be covered automatically with personal accident and personal liability insurance while on extra-mural placements. A small number of universities fund British Veterinary Association membership for their students.
The following is general guidance on EMS which you may find useful.
- RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons – This requires all veterinary surgeons to be covered by personal indemnity insurance or equivalent.
- Extramural studies: A guide for students – A guide from the British Veterinary Association.
- EMS Driving Licence – Preparatory guide for starting EMS.
- The Animal Management and Husbandry Online Placement Tool – Another preparatory guide.
- GVS, Getting experience in UK government
- GVS, Getting experience in the food sector
- Extra-mural studies with the VLA
These programmes offer excellent opportunities for undergraduates to get a sense of a career as a veterinary researcher:
- UK Veterinary Summer Studentship Programme
- Beaufort Cottage Educational Trust Veterinary Summer Scholarship
The veterinary medicine degree is very demanding and the appropriate use of academic support will be essential to succeeding. In addition to the teaching support offered by your university, there are many websites containing useful reference materials. Remember always to be cautious about material you find online, and be mindful of material which may not necessarily apply to the UK.
- Vet-Revise – A flashcard application designed for veterinary students.
- Veterinary Medicine Directorate – This government website contains comprehensive information and guidance on veterinary medicines.
Finances can be difficult to balance. The keys successfully managing finances while at university being aware of the implications of what you are committed to, and understanding the support available.
- Vetlife, Student Finance – This section of the Vetlife website is dedicated to student finance.
- Brightside Student Calculator – This can help you to budget, as well as in determining entitlements for loans and grants.
- Brightside International Student Calculator – International students have different needs in terms of finances, so this tool is designed for them.
- Student Parents – The financial pressures on student parents can be even greater and they can therefore be entitled to different sorts of loans, grants and bursaries.
Veterinary medicine is demanding both academically and emotionally, and it’s important that a student has resources available should any personal issues arise. Support will be in place in your university if you need it. Speaking out about a problem may not be easy, but it will always be worth it for the sake of your mental well-being.
- Vetlife, Emotional Support for Students – This section of the Vetlife website is designed for students.
- The Student Room – Areas of this website are dedicated to all sorts of issues that a student may be facing, and it can offer a space to discuss these issues in anonymity, be they relationship issues, depression, or difficulties with work.
- Counselling Directory – A professional counsellor or psychotherapist can be connected with you through this website.
Several veterinary schools perform DBS (formerly CRB) checks on incoming students and any history relating to a criminal record should have been picked up at that point in those veterinary schools. If, for whatever reason, you are on a veterinary course and your criminal record is undeclared, if the school were to find out before you informed them yourself then it is likely that the outcome would be severe. It is advised that you are open with your school and inform them of the situation as soon as possible.
Inform your veterinary school about any history of mental illness you may have. Although these issues can be difficult to discuss, not informing your school may mean that they do not provide all the support and reasonable adjustments that you would be entitled to if this history comes to light in any other way.
Ask for any sources of help which are available to you. Universities have support systems for their students, with mental health professionals as part of those systems. Links to relevant support organisations can be found on the At vet school page.