Linnaeus Pilot Initiatives Boost Internships Programme
Linnaeus has launched a number of pilot initiatives within seven of its UK-wide internship programmes in a bid to provide a major boost to the next generation of veterinary specialists.
The group, which has 182 sites across the country, has moved to further support its interns with a wave of new additions to its longstanding internship programmes at its industry-leading specialist-led referral centres.
The pilot introductions include support such as monthly professional skills training, wellbeing support and a 1:1 mentoring framework as part of the programmes.
On top of more than 70 rotating intern roles, the group offers over 90 residency posts across the country, with 32 discipline-specific internships across nine different disciplines available.
As well as offering increased support to its interns, in 2020 Linnaeus had over 500 active research projects, with the group’s director of clinical research and excellence Luisa De Risio saying interns are well supported to undertake research and encouraged to publish in peer-reviewed journals and present at international congresses.
Luisa, a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Neurology, Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and RCVS and EBVS European Specialist in veterinary neurology, said: “It is incredibly important to us that our interns are supported in a number of areas, including study design, statistical analysis, ethical review, funding, publication in peer-reviewed journals and have access to various educational resources including journal access.
“In addition, we can facilitate research collaborations with the wider Mars ecosystem which comprise eminent scientists in numerous areas from genetics to metabolomics and artificial intelligence.”
Natasha Hetzel, internship and residency manager at Linnaeus, said: “We are at the start of a journey with these pilots and are excited about how we’ll move forward with our internship programmes.
“We have put a lot of time into surveying interns to understand what they want to get out of their experience, what works well and what can be done better, so we are putting all of that into place as part of our programmes.
“A key point which came from our surveys, was learning and development so we have introduced fortnightly learning opportunities in which interns take part in a different interactive seminar once a fortnight.
“This might be an imaging rounds with an imaging specialist or a session focused on skills such as adopting a growth mindset or learning how to be a leader.
“These are sessions for interns at all seven of the Linnaeus hospitals in this pilot, so as well as being great for learning it is also a great networking opportunity.
“There is also an emphasis on pastoral care to ensure the wellbeing of interns, who often have recently moved to the UK, or may be living alone and working in a fast-paced environment, so offering that level of support is a real priority for us.”
North Downs Specialist Referrals is one the Linnaeus referral practices which has run a longstanding internship programme at its Surrey hospital.
Mike MacFarlane, RCVS and European specialist in small animal oncology, is one of three internship directors at NDSR alongside European specialist in small animal internal medicine Susanna Spence and Maria Angeles Jimenez Lozano, an RCVS and European specialist in anaesthesia and analgesia.
He said: “I feel very fortunate to be one of three internship directors at NDSR. Angie, Susanna and I all look after a different aspect of the internship programme and work together to try to give our interns the best experience we can.
“Although we are the internship directors, each intern also has a mentor and our interns are an integral part of the hospital as a whole.
“We welcome candidates who have many different ambitions and work hard to make sure that these can be achieved. Many of our interns have aspirations to become a specialist. Our internship has a proven record of previous interns progressing to specialist internships and residency programmes.”
Indeed, former NDSR intern Paula Valiente earlier this year passed her exams to become a European specialist in small animal internal medicine.
She said: “I still clearly remember when I first came to the hospital to complete a year-long rotating internship. I was immediately drawn to medicine and it gave me a fantastic insight into the referral world.
“I learned an incredible amount and soon realised I wanted to make internal medicine my specialty.”
Equally, though, Mike is keen to point out that not all interns are set on a path to specialist status, with clinicians often exploring skills and developing knowledge to take back to primary care.
He said: “We do not pressure our interns down a particular path and some want to experience specialist practice in order to take this experience to general practice.
“Our rotating internship allows the interns to spend time with specialists from all areas of the hospital, as well as offering weekly seminars and lectures to ensure the best learning experience. A lot of learning is done by doing and we encourage our interns to play as active a role in our patient care as possible.”
Sophie Adamantos is clinical director at Paragon Veterinary Referrals, a state-of-the-art Linnaeus referral centre in Wakefield which opened its doors in February 2018.
As clinical director, Sophie has oversight of the Paragon internship programme. She has been involved with internship programmes for nearly 15 years and prior to joining Paragon she led the internship programme at both the RVC and the University of Bristol.
She said: “Internships are a form of experiential learning, which is the main form of post-graduate learning. In contrast with undergraduate education, the emphasis is on learning from the case in front of you, supported by reading around the case.
“Learning in this way is deep and meaningful. I can emphatically say I learnt more from the cases seen in my final year, than all of my lectures during my undergraduate education, and I am sure I am not alone!
“During an internship, we usually flip the emphasis and use case-based discussions to focus the learning experience, rather than lectures on specific topics. As you are working within a referral centre with fewer cases under your direct care an internship gives you a bit more time to think about the clinical signs that animals present with and think about the various options for investigation or treatment.
“You will also be able to improve your problem-solving skills through case discussions with the clinicians working on the case. Although you might not have direct case responsibility for investigations you will also have the opportunity to develop your clinical skills while managing and helping with this care of hospitalised patients.
“An internship can give you time to consolidate clinical skills before returning to primary care practice, or give you time to explore some of the specialities in more detail before deciding on a certificate.”
As part of its internship programmes, Linnaeus has dedicated mentors in each of its participating referral centres who are receive bespoke mentor training and are on-hand to provide clinical, theoretical and wellbeing support to interns. Mentor meetings are structured around a framework that includes the creation of a personal development plan and reflection at regular intervals throughout the programme.
Stephen Baines, head of oncology at Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, is one such mentor at the award-winning Solihull hospital.
He said: “Mentoring interns is one of those things that is fun to do and we should all get involved, ideally. It is refreshing, and sometimes rejuvenating, to talk to someone towards the start of their career and help them make choices to make sure they get to where they want to be.
“In addition, this often leads to being involved with clinical research projects and it is incredible to see how much energy and hard work some of them can bring.”
For more information about Linnaeus internships, visit www.linnaeusgroup.co.uk/linnaeus-rotating-internship-programmes/. For other veterinary nursing team opportunities within the group, visit www.linnaeusgroup.co.uk or search for Linnaeus on LinkedIn.
More from Linnaeus Group