Padraig Egan enrolled on the RCVS Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice in March 2009. As he approaches the end of the venture, he shares some of the lessons he has learned along the way
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THERE is obviously a monetary investment required when embarking on the CertAVP, and this is something people should consider carefully. When you pop into the partners' office to ask about embarking on a certificate, make sure you talk about the realistic costs of this venture. It is not just the fees that need to be considered, which can be substantial, but also the investment in textbooks and journal subscriptions. However, I believe that the most important investment to be considered by both employer and employee when undertaking a CertAVP is the investment in time that will be required. I foolishly thought that I would manage to complete most of the certificate after work, during quiet afternoons and at weekends. If you are to make meaningful progression with the CertAVP, you need to consider requesting some dedicated time from the working week to allow you to concentrate solely on the task in hand.
Find a module structure to suit you
Speaking to colleagues around the country, I have become aware of how the assessment criteria differ between the institutions offering the modules. Prospective candidates should ‘shop around’ to find the institution that offers a module structure that suits the way they work. Some institutions require a large amount of online participation, while others promote more autonomy in the scheme of work.
Embarking on the A professional key skills modules entailed delving into a diverse selection of topics. I've embraced the importance of employee appraisals, learned all there is to know about practice health and safety, considered how to deal with those ‘taxing’ clients more successfully, and examined the work of paraprofessionals. Although I initially didn't embrace studying topics such as health and safety, I can look back on the A modules and say I now appreciate the importance of understanding diverse aspects of the profession.
Module B in clinical key skills is where the work I was carrying out began to impact on my daily approach to patient care. The essays submitted for this module involved case reports focusing on diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, anaesthesia, surgery and therapeutics. Reading the most up-to-date research on these subjects improved my clinical skills, which in turn benefited my patients.
When picking the C modules to enrol on, I made the decision to pick a combination that would allow me to sit the RCVS synoptic examination and gain a designated certificate in surgery (CertAVP SAS). With this in mind, I enrolled on a core surgical module and two soft tissue surgery modules. I steered away from embarking on a dedicated orthopaedic module, as I felt I wouldn't have the caseload to complete it.
Ups and downs
Failing to obtain recent reference material was my first slip up, and I had two essays returned unmarked as the reference material was deemed to be too old. This was easily remedied once I improved my skills in searching and accessing the online journal websites. The construction of a wide and varied C module caselog has been the most challenging aspect of the whole CertAVP.
I advise picking C modules carefully: take into consideration the type and number of cases required to complete each module. To complete my caselog, I had to undertake extra locum work at weekends, or I would have had to wait a further 12 months until the following year's caselog submission deadline.
Top 5 tips
■ Choose your C modules carefully – can you realistically meet the caselog requirements?
■ Set yourself a time frame for completing each component of the certificate and stick to it.
■ Find a more experienced colleague in your chosen field to act as a mentor.
■ Complete the B clinical key skills module before embarking on the C modules. The skills learned during the B modules will make completing the C modules much easier.
■ Become familiar with online journal resources, and learn the Harvard referencing scheme from the outset.
CertAVP and beyond
One thing enrolment on the CertAVP changed for me is my future career plan. Did I ever think I would utter the words ‘senior clinical training scholarship (SCTS)’ (residency to those older folks) when describing my future career plans? Probably not, but my ultimate goal over the next few years is to work towards a SCTS in small animal surgery to further my surgical skills and engage in research. Following the principles of evidence-based medicine is at the heart of the CertAVP, and this has interested me in contributing to the research that underpins them. But, one step at a time: I still have to remortgage the cat to pay for the final written examinations and the RCVS synoptic exam, and once those are complete I may be better prepared for entry into a SCTS.
After writing in the region of 55,000 words, and with a large academic hurdle still to negotiate (written exams and the RCVS synoptic exam), I view the CertAVP as a very positive experience. My case management has improved, I have developed as a surgeon and found enjoyment in the academic and practical challenges I have faced. From a business point of view, I believe embarking on the CertAVP will make me a more profitable employee, which can only improve my future employability in a competitive job market.
Even if completing an entire certificate doesn't currently suit you, why don't you consider just a single component such as the A or B module to see if you find it enjoyable?
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