A clinical coach is a member of the veterinary clinical team and is usually a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse. They are responsible for overseeing the training of the student veterinary nurse(s) and being their mentor. Whilst other members of the team will be involved in helping teach the student new skills and experiences, it falls to the clinical coach to provide guidance, support and structure to the daily learning. In addition, the coach is responsible for the completion of the online assessment log.
Being a clinical coach is not a role to be taken on lightly. It’s a demanding role and requires you to be organised and empathetic, as well as being firm but fair. Once you have decided to complete the clinical coach training (which is normally performed via your local veterinary nurse training course provider), you need to prepare for taking on a student. Reflecting on your own veterinary nurse training is a good place to start with your planning and preparation. Although all students learn differently, you will recall key aspects of what worked well for you and what parts of your learning caused you problems. Was there a key time when you felt your confidence was at a high, and what caused a dip? All these experiences in your own training will help you to guide your new student.
Being prepared is key
As we are all too well aware, things can change at the drop of a hat in a busy veterinary practice: tasks overrun and the best-laid plans have to be sidelined. Whilst these things are inevitable and often unavoidable, it is important to ensure they do not interrupt or interfere with your time with the student. Ensure everybody in the practice understands what is required in training a student veterinary nurse.
This doesn’t mean everyone has to read the syllabus, but explaining training requirements to the rest of the team will ensure they have some idea of what is involved – this is especially important if there hasn’t been a student in practice for some time. The Associated Teaching College has standards to uphold and there is a certain amount of time that the student should benefit from in terms of training and mentoring. Ensure all staff members are aware of what you are doing and why – not everyone will understand why the student nurse may be “just” standing watching a procedure! A prior explanation can prevent animosity or bad feeling at a later date.
Once you have prepared the team for what is going to happen, it’s now time to prepare yourself. Organisation is key; if you are prepared as much as possible it will help you feel more settled and confident in your role. Your student will also have more confidence in your training if you can instantly reach to the resource needed, or answer their question. Of course, there will be occasions when you will have to check your responses to your student, or you may even need to seek guidance yourself, but these incidences can be reduced if you have prepared in advance.
To complete your preparation, ensure the following are easy to access:
- College scheme of work
- Syllabus of learning
- OSCE tasks
- Assignment details
- Online assessment manual – normally provided by the course provider to give you a more in-depth guide of what is expected for each task
- RCVS Day One Skills
Plan, plan, plan
Having a plan prepared will help to structure your time spent with your student – these plans can include a teaching plan, tutorial or practical training plan. Try to involve your student in some of the planning – ask them if there are any particular areas they would like to cover or refresh in the coming sessions. Try to give them a rough subject area, so that they can prepare as well. Asking “in the coming sessions we are going to be looking at anaesthesia, are there any particular areas you would like to cover?” is more beneficial to both yourself and the student, and you can both prepare for the planned session.
How students learn
We all learn differently – some of us are visual learners, some like to write reams and reams of notes. It is important to have lots of different training aids available to your students to suit their individual needs and best learning set.
Another consideration should be any specific learning requirements your student may have, ie any sight or hearing impairments, phobias or dyslexia.
There are certain ways around these learning requirements and best practice would be to speak with the course provider along with the student. Either may have ideas or experience about how best to deal with things. An example here shows how a student with dyslexia may benefit from different methods.
- Listening to recordings – try recording training sessions for your student with dyslexia. They will often find it easier to absorb information from listening, rather than struggling to read words which may become jumbled. Recording tutorials, training sessions, etc is now easily done and can be shared and stored for revision
- Using a reading guide – if tasks involve reading, using a thick ruler to follow under each sentence can help them get direction on the words in view, otherwise the other words on the page can become muddled
- Coloured paper – some students find that having written work on yellow paper helps them focus, rather than the bright white
- Typing instead of writing – often it is easier for a student with dyslexia to type on a computer or keypad rather than writing
Variety and an element of fun during some training will help the student to process and retain the knowledge they are learning. Repeatedly writing and reading reams of paperwork becomes repetitive and robotic – try to mix up your training styles.
There are lots of resources online for use, but consider making your own. Speak with your practice manager or head vet and ask if you can spend some time making training resources prior to your student starting. It is beneficial to the team as a whole, as it means your student will be more competent – equally it will also be beneficial to you as it will refresh your knowledge on technical issues and ensure you are focused and training correctly. Once these training resources are made, they are there for ever. A lot of the background basic knowledge never changes so they can be used for students now and in the future.
As previously discussed, while hands-on learning is the best way to learn most tasks, it is not always possible or practical to repeatedly practise tasks on patients. There is a lot of scope within the veterinary practice to make simulations, and practise the practical hands-on type tasks. This can be true for all stages of training ranging from initial training, through to OSCE practising.
It is handy to have a box of practical equipment used for SVN training, so everything goes back in one place. Often practices and clinical coaches may be worried about the financial aspect of having these items for repeated practice. The key is to collect items as you go through day-to-day life in practice and speak to drug and manufacturing companies to ask for samples for nurse training; most are happy to help.
Looking at the OSCE tasks is a good place to start so you can get an idea of the sort of equipment you need to obtain/source.
Get inventive – often there is at least one willing staff member’s dog who is happy to be used for bandaging practice in exchange for a treat or two. Also, you can find a toy stuffed dog that has a mouth that opens and long legs that can be modified and practised on.
So that’s a whistlestop guide on being a clinical coach and training veterinary nurses within practice. Remember we are all humans, some things don’t go to plan and some training doesn’t suit some students. Be flexible and approachable and the rest should follow.