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Masters in clinical veterinary research
  1. Frances Barr

Abstract

A new masters qualification from the BSAVA aims to encourage and support clinical research in practice. As Frances Barr explains, it is aimed at those looking for a professional challenge

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THE ongoing professional obligation to maintain and develop knowledge and skills through CPD is generally accepted by the veterinary profession, alongside an understanding that individuals vary in their study preferences and the career path(s) they choose. The route to specialisation is well established through formal residency training programmes approved by the relevant specialist colleges, but is not for every-one. The recent recognition of Advanced Practitioners (APs) by the RCVS has provided an important career pathway, particularly for those choosing to work in veterinary practice.

The BSAVA Masters in Clinical Veterinary Research (MCVR) doesn't provide a route towards specialisation and individuals enrolling on the programme will already hold a postgraduate certificate, and thus be eligible to apply for inclusion on the RCVS AP list, so why is this masters programme important? It has arisen from conversations with a number of certificate holders, who have been asking ‘What next?’. These people have in common an intellectual curiosity, and a desire to keep moving forwards. Some are working in fields that don't have a clear route to specialisation, or in circumstances that restrict their career options. The BSAVA MCVR is intended to provide a different professional development opportunity.

Frances Barr is the British Small Animal Veterinary Association's academic director

With a growing awareness of the importance of evidence-based decision making in veterinary practice comes a demand for good quality clinical studies to contribute to that evidence base. There is a wealth of clinical material available in first-opinion practice, as well as in referral practices and veterinary schools. However, it can be difficult to take those first steps in clinical research by yourself; to know how to frame the right question, to select an appropriate study design, to have the patience to collect sufficient and relevant data, and to understand how to analyse that data. Ethical and legislative considerations are vital but can seem overwhelming. Finally, the writing up of a study and engaging with the peer-review process for the first time can be demoralising and frustrating.

This programme aims to help individuals take their first steps into veterinary clinical research with guidance, support and encouragement. The programme has been developed by a small working group, all of whom are passionate about the value of good quality clinical research and of en-abling vets to be become involved with clinical research.

Enrolled individuals will first work through a series of online study units that introduce the theoretical principles of clinical veterinary research.

▪ Searching and reviewing the literature;

▪ Funding of projects;

▪ Study design;

▪ Introduction to statistics;

▪ Ethical and legislative considerations in research;

▪ Collecting data;

▪ Writing up your project.

A series of online exercises will allow students to apply the theoretical principles they have learned to a hypothetical situation. A discussion forum, moderated by a coordinator, will allow students to ask questions and to share ideas. Having worked through these online units, students will use this theoretical knowledge as a platform to devise and implement their own clinical research projects. It is important to emphasise that each project will be chosen by the student and will be relevant to his/her daily work. Each project will usually be carried out within the practice (or workplace).

Projects involving animals must fall within the realm of recognised veterinary practice, and must not require licensing under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. They must also receive formal ethical approval, but otherwise there is scope for a wide range of study types. For example, students may choose to investigate clinical outcomes, disease risk factors, animal behaviour, owner attitudes or other aspects of their chosen topic. Studies may be prospective or retrospective, and may involve any aspect of clinical data, questionnaires, laboratory testing and so on.

Each student will be matched with a supervisor to provide guidance and advice and detailed notes, as well as clarifying the respective responsibilities and expectations of each party. We hope that veterinary surgeons who are experienced in clinical veterinary research will welcome the opportunity to become involved in the programme as project supervisors. An honorarium will be paid to each supervisor as the student progresses through each of four key stages, and we anticipate that the supervisor will also be named as an author on the resulting publication.

The desired outcome of the programme will be completion of the project, written in a form suitable for publication. The final assessment will include the written project, a reflective essay discussing the challenges faced in designing and implementing the project, and an oral examination to discuss both pieces of written work. Successful candidates will be awarded a MCVR in Clinical Veterinary Research by Nottingham Trent University. We hope that all students will submit their projects to an appropriate peer-reviewed journal for consideration, but acceptance for publication will not be a requirement for satisfactory completion of the programme.

Enrolment for the BSAVA Masters in Clinical Veterinary Research opens in early October at www.bsava.com, with the first students beginning their studies on January 1, 2017. There will be an annual intake of students in January each year. Applicants must have a postgraduate qualification carrying at least 60 credits at Level 7. This MCVR is validated through Nottingham Trent University.

Research for the BSAVA masters qualification may involve any aspect of clinical data

The programme can be completed in a minimum of two years, but extending to a maximum of five years. We recognise how important it is for students to be able to work flexibly and at their own pace – and in any event, the time required for data collection is likely to vary according to the study design and topic. Individuals wishing to register their interest in the programme before enrolments open, or who would like to receive further information, may e-mail: masters@bsava.com. Individuals who are interested in joining the pool of potential project supervisors, or who have further questions about what this role involves, are also invited to get in touch using the same e-mail address.

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