Jen Hall is no stranger to the BVA's Council having been an AVS rep as a student. She will join Council again as a young graduate rep in December but, in the meantime, was invited to its April meeting to contribute to a ‘for and against’ debate on veterinary education.
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I arrived at the BVA's headquarters feeling nervous yet excited at the prospect of participating in the debate that was to form part of the BVA Council meeting. The debate was entitled ‘Graduates have never been better prepared for practice’, and I had been asked to oppose the motion.
My first reaction to the invitation to speak was that, as a new graduate vet, it would be easy to argue against the motion. However, I soon found that my opinion alone would not be strong enough to win the debate, so I asked other young vets via the BVA's Young Vet Network forum for help. The comments provided were helpful and I was able to produce a seven-minute talk covering three main points: communication, practical skills and financial teaching. I tested my lines of reasoning on my colleagues and immediately an interesting discussion developed among us about the differences between the veterinary schools and what they offer.
It was a great feeling to be back at the BVA and see some familiar faces at Council. Having lunch before the debate helped me to relax, and by the time it came for me to talk, I was actually quite excited. The discussion that followed the presentations was interesting as it highlighted differences between the generations present. Some older vets pointed out that perhaps the motion was implying that graduates today were better prepared than graduates in previous years, a notion supported by many of the Council members. They argued that the level of teaching provided in veterinary schools now is much better than it was 20 to 30 years ago. This was counteracted by various comments from younger members of Council that the nature of veterinary practice has changed in the past 20 years as we move towards a society of ‘finger-pointing’ and constant legal worry.
In conclusion, it was decided that the debate was a ‘draw’ and that although standards of teaching in veterinary schools had definitely improved, the demands of the profession had changed. Arguably, it is the ‘art’ of veterinary medicine that is lacking in today's new graduates, and this is a skill that is gained through experience. Perhaps no amount of vet school teaching can actually prepare us for the reality of being in practice!