WE are living in an increasingly hectic world with more and more demands on our limited resource of time.
We all seem to be busier than the previous generation with bulging intrays, e-mails to answer, text and phone messages that need replying to and a “to-do” list that never seems to get any shorter! Whatever happened to that work/life balance?
Talking to a leading clinical director of a large veterinary group the other week, it was apparent that the single biggest barrier to attending CPD events was time away from the practice. It’s that “downtime” when a vet is away on a course. The consultations still need doing, as do the case investigations and the list of operations. Someone else needs to fill that gap whether from within the practice or a locum vet.
As professionals we also have a mandatory requirement to keep up to date with our clinical knowledge but this has to be balanced with practice duties and family/social responsibilities. It’s tough out there and it’s going to get tougher!
The world is changing and it’s changing fast. The internet has made available a vast amount of easily accessible knowledge and as a result clients are becoming better informed and more demanding. The veterinary sector is becoming increasingly more competitive as clients expect the very best for their pets.
There has been a huge increase in the number of veterinary referral facilities over the last 20 years to help fulfil this requirement for excellent care. With 1,400 new graduates leaving veterinary schools in the UK each year and another veterinary school planned for the University of Surrey, starting in 2014, will we shortly be facing an oversupply of well-taught, up to date and enthusiastic younger veterinarians?
These vets will join those from other European countries who already see the UK as a way of developing their careers and improving their opportunities.
So, doing the bare minimum of CPD just to tick the boxes and fulfil RCVS requirements may no longer be enough if you want to maintain a competitive edge and ensure that you – and your practice – is seen as a leading light in the veterinary arena.
Vets as individuals are increasingly recognising the need to develop their skills and gain additional qualifications. This is not so that they can compete with the veterinary specialists, but so that they work-up their own cases more effectively and recognise the need for a specialist referral when necessary.
Over the last 15 years, Improve International has helped train literally thousands of general practising vets so that they reach a “good” standard in their chosen subject. This has led to vets developing their clinical abilities, and also their confidence and enthusiasm for practice.
Current surveys of veterinary practice as a business show that the frequency of client visits to practices is falling. This is why it’s even more important to provide an excellent clinical offering and give clients access to the best suite of services that is possible.
Little business training
Veterinary practices are, in the main, small owner businesses run in most cases by people with little or no business training.
An investment in some core management skills can show a quick return in practice productivity. This, coupled with the up-skilling of individual vets within the practice so that new clinical techniques can be applied on a weekly basis, will ensure that practice performance is enhanced, even in difficult economic times.
So maybe it’s time to bring the CPD planning towards the top of that list and ensure that your practice and vets reach a higher level.
The good news is that the CPD marketplace is also changing! The UK veterinary profession now has a wide range of postgraduate qualifications to select from, covering a good range of subjects. To achieve a real improvement in knowledge and expertise, a modular training programme provides a structured way to learn. Over a period of one to two years, vets can meet up with likeminded colleagues and build valuable relationships which will help them in their professional careers.
The tutors on these courses are often recognised specialists, enthusiastic to impart their knowledge and are usually willing to provide ongoing help and advice.
Developments in how learning material is delivered means that the course doesn’t stop in the lecture room. Programmes now have valuable online components which include group forums for course discussions, access to course notes online, links to scientific papers/review articles and other learning materials.
Flexibility in learning now needs to be a key component of any in-depth learning programme with attendees on courses blending case-discussion in small groups with pre- and post-session study material delivered online and where appropriate hands-on practical exercises. Course content may be available at home in front of a PC or on the move by way of a Smartphone or an iPad.
Helen Kidd from Vets4Pets in Harrogate is a good example of someone who decided to move ahead and embark on a modular programme in small animal surgery.
She says: “I think it will make me more employable, and gaining an extra qualification will help towards my options. It has already given me more confidence with surgery in general as well as allowed me to carry out procedures I wouldn’t have considered in the past.”
Veterinary surgeons and veterinary practices have perhaps been slow to embrace the concept of professional development planning, unlike our medical colleagues where it is a routine part of their professional lives.
As individuals it’s important to take time out to think about our careers. Where are we heading? What interests do we want to develop? How will we get to where we want to be?
Similarly, veterinary practices should consider what core skills are missing from the range of services offered and ask if these skills could be added by training selected individuals from within the team.
Gaining postgraduate qualifications can undoubtedly play a huge part in motivating vets within a practice and this in turn will have a corresponding effect on bottom-line financial performance.
Professional training should and can be a “win-win” situation for both the individual and the supporting practice.