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BSAVA Holds Education Debate Before Launching Postgraduate Certificates

12 years ago

26th September, 2011 11h52

President Andrew Ash President Andrew Ash Interest in places on the 2012 BSAVA postgraduate certificates far outstrip the limited number of places available on the first year’s intake for the courses in small animal medicine and surgery. Clearly, there is real hunger among first opinion practitioners for high quality training that will enhance their clinical ability and help them to provide even better standards of care for pet owners and their animals. But what exactly do practitioners want from this training? How do we measure achievements of those practitioners who have undertaken intensive voluntary study? And what is the role of the BSAVA - along with other veterinary organisations - in ensuring that such training is appropriate, readily available and affordable? These were among the many questions raised at a forum organised by the BSAVA in London on September 22nd during the debate entitled ‘The future of veterinary postgraduate education – what do we want and what do we need?’, hosted by BSAVA Director of Education, Dr Frances Barr. Three prominent veterinary surgeons known for their passionate interest in professional education gave their views on how the system should develop in the future and answered questions from the association’s officers, practitioner colleagues and the veterinary press. They were Bradley Viner, founder of the Blythwood Veterinary Group in Middlesex, a member of RCVS Council and the recipient of a doctorate for his studies on the introduction of clinical audit in veterinary practice; Neil Forbes principal of the Great Western Referrals in Swindon, holder of UK and European diplomas in avian medicine, and also president of the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation; and Stephen May, deputy principal with specific responsibilities for teaching at the Royal Veterinary College. Each agreed that maintaining and improving a system of postgraduate qualification for practitioners was certainly necessary. This would produce considerable benefits for clients, their animals and the broader veterinary profession, while improving both the clinical effectiveness and job satisfaction of the individual veterinary surgeon. However, the sort of training that is most popular with BSAVA members is not always in areas that they most need to improve. Not surprisingly, practitioners will be drawn towards those subjects that they enjoy, and for most that will involve strengthening their skills in clinical areas rather than learning about non-clinical matters such as communications skills, ethics, business administration or information technology. Yet it is in these areas that many practitioners are often weakest and this can have substantial effects on their performance – around 30 per cent of all complaints against practitioners seen by the RCVS Preliminary Investigation Committee were a result of failures in communications rather than any lack of clinical knowledge, Dr Viner pointed out. Paraphrasing the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Mr Forbes argued that the way forward was to identify the ‘unknown unknowns’, those gaps in their knowledge that clinicians may not appreciate are even there. One solution would be to improve their capacity for ‘reflective practice’, an honest and systematic appraisal of how carry out their professional duties. However, Professor May believed that the term has been devalued by a superficial interpretation of what this means. Reflection should not consist of a few seconds thoughts about the results of a clinical intervention, it should involve a more detailed investigation of the options available and a comparison with the evidence on alternative approaches, he said. Postgraduate training is intended to give the public key information about the level of competency of the individual veterinary surgeon and help them make choices about the standards of care they want for their animals. However, speakers recognised that there was confusion even among members of the profession about the significance of some postgraduate qualifications and so how was the public expected to understand the system? Professor May explained that there is an acceptance of the need to develop a formal second tier of qualifications that recognises a level of training and expertise below that of a recognised specialist but above that of an ordinary practitioner. Mr Forbes said the European Committee for Veterinary Professional Development was looking to establish a system of quality control for qualifications in different countries that would lead to the designation ‘acknowledged practitioner’. All the national awarding bodies were agreed that steps were necessary to ensure that this level of training can be achieved by those working in an ordinary practice setting. Each panel member rejected a suggestion that some form of postgraduate qualification should be compulsory but there was unanimous support for the Royal College’s efforts to make CPD mandatory for all members. Dr Viner noted that the RCVS has taken this concept as far as it can under the current legislative framework. So, for the moment it would rely on the threat of noncompliance being a factor in any disciplinary case centring on professional competence, rather than any positive encouragement to embrace life-long learning. However, Professor May believed that mandatory CPD would eventually be backed by the introduction of requirements for relicensing and revalidation of professional qualifications for veterinary surgeons similar to those already in place in many equivalent professions. With members of the profession and the attending press considering it a worthwhile debate, BSAVA was pleased to have hosted a successful discussion around the future of postgraduate study. The event was also an opportunity for Education Chair, Susan Paterson, to introduce the guests to BSAVA’s latest initiative, the Nursing Merit Awards, due for launch at BSAVA Congress in 2012, and a way of offering comprehensive and accessible training for key nursing staff. As Dr Frances Barr went on to describe the plans for the BSAVA Certificates in Medicine and Surgery, she was complimented by President Andrew Ash, who said, “Education and excellence has always been, and always will be, at the very heart of BSAVA’s remit, so when it came to providing the profession with a relevant, practical, supported approach to a postgraduate qualification, we knew we needed a special individual to drive it forward. And I consider it a real coup that we ‘persuaded’ Frances to work with us to deliver the Medicine and Surgery Certificates. Her energy is impressive (even intimidating!), and I’d like to extend my personal thanks to her for making this long-held ambition for BSAVA a reality”. Registration for BSAVA Certificates opens on 3 October 2011. The courses begin in January 2012. More information can be found at

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