Getting to grips with the new CertAVP - Veterinary Practice
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Getting to grips with the new CertAVP

STUART JACKSON reflects on the learning methods and benefits of the new RCVS Certificate

THE introduction of the Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice gave me hope and encouragement for the future of general veterinary practice.

I found the first parts of the A module alien. The analysis of learning methods and how we are affected by our personality traits was a difficult process.

As vets we have to think both laterally and within the bounds of the facts presented to us. Our training is based on science and we are not accustomed to less well-defined approaches. The C module in Professional Skills contains similar elements that I found difficult to assimilate. However, I can now see that there are many aspects to self-analysis and understanding the skills, behaviour and limits of others that are essential to understanding oneself. A common thread through my essays has been the improvement I have made in the relationship with the staff.

The Areas of Learning (AOL) proved to be quite difficult for me – trying to identify subjects to write about and then trying to provide appropriate evidence. The first exercises in the certificate course provided an understanding of the sources of learning and how to apply learning when implementing projects and ideas into the practice.

I think my mind has been programmed to assimilate and learn without understanding the processes involved and without approaching a subject within a learning framework. However, I feel that the AOLs gave me an opportunity to describe a variety of learning experiences in a variety of clinical and management areas of practice.

I was initially attracted to the Certificate because of the inclusion of clinical audit. I have felt for a long time that this is the way that practices should evolve and that it is a valid method of analysing practitioners’ performances.

I have been recording my anaesthesia data for several years. Although I now realise that this wasn’t a scientific audit, as we now understand the definition, it gave me the data and understanding I was looking for. I still record and publish the data in the same way and I will continue to look for ways to improve my anaesthesia (e.g. Sevoflurane and the Humphries ADE anaesthetic circuit) and therefore the results we achieve.

The Clinical Audit Module involved the most work and probably resulted in the biggest changes for the practice in general. I have learned that clinical audit cannot be undertaken without learning and instruction. The seminar in April, 2008 provided this structure. However, two things struck me at this meeting. One was the medical practitioners’ view of auditing and the other is the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS).

True clinical audit

I felt that medical auditing is a financially rewarded box-ticking exercise. However, having read more on the subject, I found that the new validation scheme for doctors does include an element of true clinical audit.

The PSS includes clinical audit but there doesn’t seem to be a training requirement for practices applying to the PSS. The strict structure of the process may deter some from undertaking auditing. In small practices, it should be easier to perform auditing. I have learned that involving the staff and delegating to their strengths is important in achieving a successful outcome for the audits.

This is one of my main areas of learning from the Certificate as a whole. In addition, I think I have learned similar things about my own personality and hope that I am able to demonstrate improvement in the daily working of the practice.

The consultation skills module has provoked a learning process that will continue to provide improvement in my technique. I hope to employ a new assistant soon and would like to implement a learning process that involves a mutual assessment programme. The consultation is probably the most important part of the small animal practitioner’s job and, because of this,Ihave tried to implement my learning in my daily routine.

On-going learning

As I have said, the structure of consultations is vital to their success, but I do find it difficult to carry out every consultation according to an ideal model. I have learned a great deal about my technique, and about myself, in this exercise and I am sure that this module will generate on-going learning and improvement.

The contrast between this module, where self-analysis and self-audit are reviewed in each new consultation, and clinical audit, where a more clinical and scientific approach is required, is stark. This has given the course variety in learning techniques and provided a mechanism to investigate different aspects of one’s personality and learning styles.

The professional skills part of the module provided an insight into the importance of running a business and into a search for the inner self. I found it hard to find suitable projects as, again, I found the guidance on the definition of a professional completely alien, both in language and substance.

However, by reading a range of articles and references on the subject, especially on managerial success theories,I was, I hope, able to assimilate and provide reliable evidence of my managerial skills. I would say that these skills have improved as a result and I hope I am more able to understand my own limitations and capabilities in this regard.

I don’t think it would be wrong to say that most practice-owning vets cherish and protect their practices and I am no different in this regard. The Certificate course has helped me be more open with staff and clients. Without it, the recent developments and improvements may not have happened.

There is evidence that I was changing before I started the Certificate, but I think it would have taken me longer to change and that the change could have been misdirected. For example, I may not have succeeded with a big new client contract if some learning and analysis elements were not in place.

As a whole, I think the Certificate course has given me an insight into veterinary practice that I have been missing in the past. For many years, I led a very insular practice experience. Although I did attend CPD regularly, I was so busy with work that I didn’t interact very much with fellow practitioners. I often struggled with workload, staffing issues and, of course, individual cases.

I was often disillusioned with general practice and felt like I was on a treadmill, resigned to working simply to pay the mortgage (and the school fees!). I can confidently say that I now have a fresh and reinvigorated outlook on practice. The structure of the course is completely different to the traditional learning methods which vets of my generation experienced, both at university and in studying for the old certificates.

In the workplace, we need to be able to extract information stored by means of our traditional learning, but that is different from doing so in an exam situation. The modular structure and the learning sets meetings gave me the understanding of how one learns, gave me the opportunity to share experiences and the incentive to complete the course.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this new and exciting venture and am confident that I will continue to implement many of the learning and professional skills acquired.


Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Pub. Prentice-Hall, USA. ISBN 0-13-295261-011.

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