Darren Mackintosh, operations manager at Independent Vetcare, explains why the group has developed an EMS scheme
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FINDING the perfect job can be hard; balancing career ambitions and a personal life is challenging for young vets.
It's impossible to know how well you're going to gel with new colleagues from reading a short advert. It's in nobody's interest for vets to leave a job soon after starting it, so ensuring that a practice's ethos is clear and consistent and that job descriptions are fair and accurate, benefits everybody. With over 350 practices in the UK, recruiting and developing people represents a significant proportion of Independent Vetcare's (IVC's) ongoing investment. I use the word ‘developing’ deliberately – we're not interested in simply filling and maintaining practice headcounts; we want passionate, motivated, professional and supportive people on every practice team.⇓
In order to attract and retain the best vets, we believe the best way is to start with undergraduates. We want to develop genuine, strong and mutually beneficial relationships with them and we hope that our new EMS programme will help lay firm foundations that will build into long and fruitful careers.
EMS at IVC gives young vets the opportunity to experience real practice. Learning how to communicate effectively with clients, experiencing the dynamics of a high-performing team and observing the nuances of language used to engage owners with treatment regimens are valuable experiences that can only truly be learned in the practice environment.
Increasingly, vet schools are focusing more on teaching these soft skills, but IVC has long believed that ultimately it's the customer experience that drives increased footfall, so it's vital that every member of the practice team – from EMS student to clinical director – talks the talk with every client, every day.
The first step of the journey
When we began developing our EMS programme, we did so as part of a holistic approach to cementing our commitment to learning and development. Our objective was to create a CPD journey for vets from student (through our EMS programme) to newly qualified vet (‘Graduate Academy’) to established professional (‘IVC Academy’). In this way, we develop structured support for vets at every stage of their career; building skills, rewarding excellence and offering them stimulating roles.
For veterinary students who may be considering whether to apply for an EMS placement, this is what you can expect:
▪ Guaranteed focus and support: practices offering EMS placements have actively chosen to do so and follow the clear, guiding principles we have developed.
▪ Consistent, quality teaching: participating practices follow an agreed programme to ensure that every student at every practice gets the same experience from their placement.
▪ Breadth and depth of experience: our practices are busy and varied, so students will not only see a wide range of cases, they'll also be able to choose complementary practices for each EMS block. For example, if your first placement is in a clinic with a high cat caseload, you could choose an equine practice, a referral practice or a practice with an exotics focus for your subsequent experience. Equally, you can choose to stay in the same practice if you wish, building experience and strengthening professional contacts.
▪ There's no contract or enduring commitment at the end although the EMS programme does offer excellent networking opportunities and gives students experience of the daily practicalities of a veterinary career and, specifically, life with IVC.
To find out more and apply for the next intake of IVC's EMS programme, please visit www.independentvetcare.co.uk
EMS offering structured development with an individual focus
Working with experts from vet schools, our own practices and veterinary sector professionals, we have developed a structured three-year EMS programme that we believe is the first of its kind:
▪ Beginning in year 3 (and continuing into years 4 and 5) students undertake four, fortnightly EMS placements, each with a dedicated clinical coach to provide a single point of contact and tailor support to their needs.
▪ EMS can be undertaken entirely at one practice, or at up to four of our practices across the UK.
▪ Each placement aims to support undergraduates in developing confidence and competence in a wide range of recommended procedures, clinical and interpersonal skills. We apply the principle ‘see one, assist one, do one’, giving practical experience in a range of routine surgical scenarios, and ensure the student feels safe and supported.
The structure of our EMS programme mirrors the academic curriculum of students. The wide-ranging skills matrix covers topics in increasing depth across the three-year programme. Selected examples of skills from each year include the following:
▪ Basic practical skills such as blood sampling, catheter placement and maintenance, skin scrapes and dental scale and polish under direct supervision.
▪ Routine surgeries: cat castration, basic suturing, skin/simple wound closure and small mass removal.
▪ Assist in dog castrate and bitch spay.
▪ Cat spay.
▪ Use in-house diagnostic laboratory equipment and interpret basic results.
▪ Appropriate drug selection and preparation.
▪ Urinary catheter placement and maintenance.
▪ Wound management: decision making and therapies.
▪ Removal of larger masses under supervision.
▪ Supervised euthanasia procedure (eg, wildlife casualties).
▪ Dental techniques (nerve blocks and extractions).