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Easing the transition

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IT SEEMS such a good idea, it's surprising it hasn't been done before, at least in the form now taking shape. The launch of the bva's Young Vet Network (see p 747 of this issue) is indeed an exciting development, and it is to be hoped that the initiative continues to gain momentum in the months ahead.

The network aims to ease the transition from veterinary school to professional life, and to provide support for new graduates during what is increasingly acknowledged as a difficult stage in their career. Developed with the help of recent graduates who are themselves in the process of making or have just made that transition, it complements another bva-led initiative — the meetings for recent graduates currently being held around the country by the Association's territorial divisions. These allow recent graduates to meet up with colleagues in their area, and to discuss their concerns and share their experiences in a supportive environment. A number of such meetings have already taken place, and the feedback has been positive.

Things got off to a good start last week with the publication of the bva New Graduate Guide. This concise but comprehensive handbook is currently being sent to student bva members in their final year, as well as to graduate members up to eight years qualified. Other elements of the programme include a dedicated section on the bva's website (www.bva.co.uk/youngvetnetwork) offering tips and advice on how to deal with the first years in practice or other veterinary careers, and an online group of student and recent graduate members available to offer each other advice and support, answer questions and help set up informal meetings with other graduates in the area.

A key element of the programme is specific representation for recent graduates on the bva's Council. Following a nomination process last November, two representatives were selected and invited to their first Council meeting in December. The fact that there is specific representation for recent graduates will not preclude other recent graduates seeking nominations for a place on the Council as representatives of bva divisions. In many ways all this represents only the start of the process, and it is to be hoped that other initiatives will be developed as the network begins to take off.

The New Graduate Guide provides a wealth of information for those about to embark on their professional career, giving advice on matters ranging from deciding on which direction to pursue and choosing and applying for the first job, to insurance and financial planning right through to retirement. En route, it takes in issues such as responsibilities as a veterinary surgeon and offers advice on effective communication with clients and colleagues, including how to avoid and manage complaints. Specific advice is given on dealing sympathetically with issues such as the loss of a pet or euthanasia.

Discussing how to settle into a new job, it considers matters such as familiarisation with practice protocols, conducting a consultation, seeking a second opinion and case referral. Further advice is given on dealing with emergencies, after-hours calls and writing clinical records. A chapter on lifelong learning discusses current cpd requirements, with an explanation of postgraduate qualifications and the recently introduced postgraduate development phase. Another chapter discusses a veterinarian's responsibilities when supplying and prescribing medicines, while a further chapter answers some ‘frequently asked questions’ concerning employment law and salaries.

In addition to this general advice, the guide provides much useful contact information, giving details of bva divisions and other organisations offering support and advice.

One of the most interesting chapters in the guide has been contributed by recent graduates, who comment on their experiences, both good and bad. They also offer advice to those following in their footsteps, based on what they have learned since leaving veterinary school. Comments range from ‘Even after my most stressful day has pushed me past my limits I still find job satisfaction and could not envisage not being a vet’ to ‘I think there are few jobs as demanding on your spare time or as unpredictable.’ Words of advice include ‘Do not accept a poor or unsuitable job based simply on convenience or fear of never being offered another’, ‘The best form of support in the first six months is your peers’ and ‘You cannot know everything there is to know to be a competent veterinarian. Realise that all your training was to give you the skills to solve problems and find answers through utilising resources, including more experienced colleagues.’

One can speculate on the reasons why the transition from veterinary school into practice can prove difficult for new graduates, but the most useful perspectives will come from the graduates themselves. This is what is so attractive about the Young Vet Network. By offering a means of communication, representation and mutual support, it provides an opportunity to identify the problems and to contribute to the solutions that are found.

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