RCVS and BSAVA news: Changes to PDP made following joint RCVS and BSAVA research project

29 March 2018

The Education Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has agreed to significant short-term changes to the Professional Development Phase (PDP), which helps new veterinary graduates transition into veterinary practice, to provide further support to participants.

This follows a jointly-funded research project by the RCVS and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) to evaluate how effective the PDP is in supporting graduates during the transition from veterinary school to veterinary practice.

The research was undertaken by the Work Psychology Group and included online surveys, telephone interviews and a focus group with both recent graduates and representatives from practices that are currently employing recent graduates. The overall aim was to understand both positive and negative experiences of the PDP amongst veterinary graduates and their employers considering existing obstacles to learning and development, any gaps in support provision and common areas of confusion, anxiety and concern.

Christine Warman, RCVS Director of Education, said: “We are really grateful to everyone that took the time to give us their views and are pleased that this report gives us such a solid foundation on which to base necessary changes. What came across very strongly from the feedback we received was that, the overall purpose and aims of the PDP were welcomed by graduates, employers and other stakeholders as something that is useful and good for the profession. Most agreed that having a formal support mechanism for graduates is essential for navigating the transition between the structured environment of veterinary school to the ‘coalface’ of veterinary practice.

“However, it was clear that there are issues with the PDP in its current format, including comments around it being a ‘tick-box’ or ‘check-list’ exercise in which the number of tasks completed was seen as more important than a focus on qualitative aspects such as confidence and progression as well as a lack of focus on development of non-clinical skills.

“As a result the Work Psychology Group came up with a series of recommendations which were approved by our PDP Working Group in December 2017 and then our Education Committee in February 2018. Some of these recommendations, as set out below, can be actioned in the short-term and we hope that these will rectify some of the concerns that were raised. In the longer-term the future of the PDP and the further recommendations of this research are also being considered as part of our Graduate Outcomes Project which is taking a more holistic view on the skills and competences of future veterinary professionals.”

The short-term recommendations accepted by the RCVS Education Committee are:

  • Developing guidance to support graduates and employers through the process of reflection on their progress.
  • Considering how to build opportunities to capture and record reflective learning into the PDP.
  • Making it a requirement of the PDP that every graduate who is participating in the PDP has a named workplace mentor assigned to them, as well as a Postgraduate Dean.
  • Asking assigned mentors to sign-off their graduate’s progress on the PDP on a regular basis (eg every other month) and write a short commentary on the graduate’s progress on a six-monthly or annual basis.
  • Sharing resources between the BSAVA and RCVS looking at where further resources can be developed.
  • Gaining feedback from other professions as well as the veterinary schools regarding platforms that have been used for similar purposes and have been successful. This process would consider the key requirements of a PDP platform and ensure that the right questions are asked to gain feedback.

Sheldon Middleton, Chair of BSAVA’s PDP Committee, said “We’re really pleased with the start we’ve made to help graduates and their employers take positive steps to tackle the challenges of transitioning between university and practice, and we have a plan to improve further, working with RCVS to really make a difference.

“We are also pleased to have this opportunity to reflect on such comprehensive feedback after our first year, this empirical evidence from those involved is invaluable, we have learnt lessons and highlighted areas for further development, so now we’re looking ahead to make sure we implement our improvement plan.”

“The BSAVA Resource Bank received positive feedback (1.5.4) however, the majority of stakeholders and graduates were unaware of this resource and we will work to address this.”

The full report from the Work Psychology Group can be downloaded from the RCVS website here.