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Introducing a new ‘middle tier’
  1. Christine Warman

Abstract

This autumn the RCVS will launch its advanced practitioner accreditation – a middle tier status between the initial veterinary degree and being a specialist. Christine Warman, head of education at the RCVS, explains why becoming an advanced practitioner will be more than just a status symbol

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AT the RCVS we believe that advanced practitioner status is a great step forward for the profession and we will launch it with great pride. The status was conceived just three years ago as part of a review into the structures and routes to veterinary specialisation and to have it ready to launch so soon is a fantastic achievement for our Council, the College's staff and those members of the profession who provided advice and guidance throughout the development process.

The 2011 review, conducted by our specialisation working party, identified a gap in status and recognition between practitioners with the undergraduate veterinary degree and those with specialist status who could demonstrate their expertise and experience in a defined field of clinical work.

Advanced practitioner status will act as a bridge between the two, providing recognition for those who have gained qualifications at postgraduate certificate level and who have made the effort to expand their knowledge and skills in a designated field.

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Furthermore, given an increasing variety of postgraduate qualifications, the status will make the different levels of experience among the profession clearer to the public.

Over and above minimum requirements

However, for vets wishing to become an advanced practitioner, the accreditation will be more than a mere status symbol. As well as demonstrating knowledge and experience in a particular field, those who gain the accreditation will also confirm that they will continue to update the knowledge they have gained throughout the course of their career, over and above the College's minimum requirements for CPD.

Possession of the status will therefore show colleagues, clients and employers that they are dedicated. It will demonstrate that they take their career development seriously and that they are committed to lifelong learning.

Kit Sturgess is an elected member of the RCVS Council and will chair the advanced practitioner panel that will assess applications for accreditation. He explains how becoming an advanced practitioner will be career enhancing: ‘The status is very much a public facing accreditation, which shows that the individual has knowledge and understanding in a specific discipline that is both quality-assured and current.’

‘Additionally, advanced practitioner status can be easily and clearly communicated to animal owners and so it serves as an excellent way of marketing a practice's and an individual's skill set and commitment to potential clients. It is an easily understandable status that demonstrates the holder's professional achievements. Ultimately, we envisage it as being a stepping stone towards RCVS specialist status for many members of the profession as they develop their knowledge and skills in a particular area.’

Professional skills

While demonstrating advanced clinical skills and knowledge in a designated area will be essential for advanced practitioner applicants, it is also considered important that they can demonstrate evidence of further study in professional key skills. These include subjects such as veterinary ethics, communication, clinical reasoning, decision making and research skills, which have relevance and application across all clinical disciplines and which help veterinary surgeons take their professional practice to a higher level.

The ‘A’ module (foundations of advanced veterinary practice) of the certificate in advanced veterinary practice (CertAVP) is one way in which applicants can gain this experience as it covers a wide range of these professional skills.

Kit Sturgess explains how knowledge of an area such as veterinary ethics, for example, feeds into the type of advanced veterinary practice expected of those who will hold the accreditation: ‘As newer treatments and less well-understood therapies are attempted, ethics become increasingly important to ensure patient welfare through activities like clinical audit. Clinical audit is an exciting area for clinicians, allowing them to not only use the published evidence base but also to develop their own defendable evidence base centred on their own experience, skills and achievements that can be presented to colleagues and clients.’

The A module also stresses the importance of personal and professional development, lifelong learning and transferable skills – all of which help practitioners improve their overall patient care and professional satisfaction, whatever their field of work.

More details about the CertAVP, including a breakdown of the module subjects and frequently asked questions, can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/certavp.

Although certain stated criteria do need to be met before applying to be an advanced practitioner, there are a number of routes open for the practising vet who wants to gain accreditation. The RCVS CertAVP is one; others could encompass other accepted postgraduate clinical qualifications and relevant postgraduate masters degrees.

Furthermore, advanced practitioner status will encompass a wide range of veterinary career paths and interests, with designations ranging from animal welfare science, ethics and law to small animal medicine to veterinary public health with many more in between.

Kit Sturgess explains: ‘The status has been designed to provide as many routes as possible for a practitioner to achieve a more advanced level within the profession. There are many different qualifications that would make you eligible to apply for the status, allowing you to choose a route that suits your learning style as well as practical aspects such as costs, availability of time, ability to travel and work/life balance.’

The list of current advanced practitioner designations can be found in the guidance notes for applicants, which can be downloaded from www.rcvs.org.uk/advanced.

This list is not exhaustive and may be updated from time to time if new designations are recognised. Applicants will be able to apply for designations that are not listed, but would need to propose a title for the designation, appropriate to their qualification. Any new designation would need to be approved by the RCVS Education Committee before being added to the list.

How to apply

The College has worked hard to keep the application process as straightforward as possible. We will accept applications for the first listing from September this year and, following scrutiny by the advanced practitioner panel, the list of successful candidates will be published in the spring of 2015 along with the updated list of specialists.

We are in the process of developing an online application process that we hope will be user-friendly and accessible. Potential applicants should start their preparations now by using the Professional Development Record to bring their CPD records up-to-date. There is a £50 non-refundable fee for applying for advanced practitioner status, in addition to an annual fee to remain on the list. The annual fee has yet to be decided but will become payable one year after initial accreditation.

▪ Further updates will be placed on the RCVS website. More information is available by telephone on 020 7202 0791 or e-mail: ap@rcvs.org.uk

Applying for advanced practitioner status

Although the College's aim is to make advanced practitioner status as accessible as possible, there are requirements that applicants will need to meet to demonstrate that they have the relevant experience, knowledge and skills to take on the accreditation. Only practising members of the RCVS with at least five years' experience can apply. Non-practising members are not eligible to apply.

Applicants must also hold one of the following qualifications:

▪ An RCVS certificate. This is either the CertAVP with a designation or one of the non-modular RCVS certificates awarded up until 2012.

▪ Other postgraduate clinical qualifications awarded by universities or other recognised awarding bodies at Level 7 in the UK framework of higher education qualifications (for example, the Nottingham Trent University/BSAVA postgraduate certificate). Such qualifications must equate to at least 60 UK credits (or 30 ECTS – European credit transfer and accumulation system) – of which 40 credits, or two-thirds, are in the clinical area applied for.

▪ A relevant postgraduate masters degree.

Other acceptable qualifications will be added to the list as and when they are approved.

Applicants wishing to be accredited as an advanced practitioner should present evidence of further study in key areas of professional development such as are included in the A module of the CertAVP. If their qualification does not explicitly include such elements, there will be an initial three-year window during which the applicant may be admitted to the list. If admitted by this route, the practitioner will then have five years to undertake CPD in areas of professional development or complete a professional development module.

The College recommends that applicants should have undertaken a minimum of 250 hours of CPD over the past five years, 125 hours of which should be in the designated field. However, it says it will be flexible when considering initial applications, provided the minimum requirement for CPD – 105 hours over three years – has been met, of which a substantial proportion is in the designated field.

Once on the list, advanced practitioners will need to undertake at least 250 hours of CPD over the five-year period of accreditation, half of which should be in their designated field.

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