CVS launched its first New Graduate Summer Camp last year to support vets entering the profession following the disruption COVID caused to their clinical education.
This year, CVS’ graduate programme and summer camp has further expanded its mentoring and well-being support for new graduates, through the addition of two new dedicated pastoral support vets in the team.
In collaboration with the University of Surrey, the 2021 summer camp provided new vets with three weeks of structured learning to begin their career with CVS, with a focus on clinical and professional skills, friendship and a positive working environment.
The summer camp combined a week of online content, a residential week at the University of Surrey, and a week in practice with an experienced vet assisting them in consults and surgery. The programme was so successful, with such positive feedback from the new graduates, that an even larger and more comprehensive summer camp is planned for 2022.
CVS head of clinical learning Mark Waining explained a clear motivation existed within CVS for last year’s programme. He said: “Vets graduating in 2021 had their clinical rotations and EMS opportunities heavily impacted by COVID.
“Moving from being a student to a fully qualified vet is already a huge transitional period for these individuals, and we need to do everything within our power to ensure they have a good experience on entering the profession; 2022 is no different, and using our experience of the camp from last year, we are able to build a new programme that really meets the needs of our up-and-coming professionals.
“At summer camp, we cover the skills that a vet needs on day one in clinical practice and how to manage the factors that worry them the most.
“We also bring our graduates together so they can start creating those first-job memories straight away. In so doing this, we set them up for a successful long-term professional journey.”
Mark continued: “We are privileged to have a wide array and hundreds of hours of clinical webinars on our online learning platform, Knowledge Hub.
“These cover many first opinion presentations and conditions, and are available for our vets to refer back to as they see cases in practice.
“We then went on to produce new materials where none were pre-existing. For instance, an experienced health care education camera operator joined me in practice to produce videos of routine cat and dog neuters. This gives the graduates a narrated procedure guide they can stop and rewind, as well as covering hints and tips, such as what to do in a bleeding bitch spay.
“We wanted to reserve our in-person training time for topics that most benefited from interaction or discussion. Our online programme has allowed us to do this while maximising what the graduates have available from their first day of employment; allowing them to work at their own pace and prepare for the residential week.”
University of Surrey hosted CVS for its 2021 summer camp, supplying facilities to run five days of training for each cohort of graduates.
Discussing the focus of this residential week, Mark said: “It was important to provide these graduates with the necessary skills to ensure they felt confident going into their first day in practice. For this, we wanted to expose them to clinical skills such as dentistry, ultrasound, cytology, CPR and so forth, together with communication and organisational skills.
“These ranged from learning how to use the practice management system and produce an estimate, through to running a consult with an actor to whom they would have to explain the estimate. Additional training in difficult conversations, and simulations of prep rooms and euthanasia consults, has allowed the graduates to have a much smoother entry into their professional lives.
“Most importantly, though, this week allowed our graduates to forge supportive networks with their new colleagues. After a very different university experience to the one most of us remember, these graduates were able to interact with peers from multiple universities, who they will continue to see throughout our new grad programme.
“Additionally, they could take advantage of having members from the CVS Hub Clinical Lead team helping with the training. These vets have a wealth of experience in veterinary practice and teaching, being ideally suited to discuss the realities of being a vet during training and evening social events.”
Listening to feedback from the 2021 cohort, CVS plans to run events in the north and south of England, where graduates will attend with others who will be working in other nearby practices, helping to build a local support network. Cohorts will be formed by 50 graduates from various universities.
By splitting them then into groups of 10, but with the cohort coming together for evening social events, graduates can get the maximum benefit from the residential week’s teachings and social aspects.
To round off the summer camp experience, new graduates experienced small group training in sets of two to four in practices with dedicated mentors. These mentors assisted them in four days of consulting and operating.
Mark said: “It was important for our graduates to be exposed to consults, but have the opportunity to run their diagnostic and treatment plans through with a dedicated person.
“They were also able to become familiar with the computer systems. Operating days allowed them to take the lead in surgery, with someone scrubbed in to guide and share tips.
“The end of each day was given over to reflection. It is important for us all to actively engage with the process of personal and practice-wide quality improvement.
“We all have strengths and weaknesses, and it is important to be aware of these and plan how we can develop personally and professionally. This also provided time to discuss any questions the graduates had about clinical matters or life as a vet.
“Having the experience of last year to build on has helped us identify the types of consults and procedures new graduates get the most from, and to prioritise booking. We also now have our first group in practice, showing us the benefit of the programme.”
Part of a wider vision
The summer camp is only the beginning of a new graduate’s journey with CVS, with 10 days of CPD each year of the programme (in addition to summer camp), a second-year elective, no tie-in fees, dedicated mentors, hub clinical leads to help develop graduates and many more benefits; CVS has vast experience in delivering clinical learning.
Mark added: “The success of last year has encouraged CVS to make summer camp a permanent part of the New Graduate Programme. With plans to take on 200 new small animal vets this year, we’re excited to welcome them into our ever-growing team.
“But the aim of CVS has always been for the staff to develop into happy, fulfilled and successful vets. To aid us with this, we have created the pastoral support vet role.”
Vets Jennifer Clarkson and Heather Brown explained: “We are incredibly excited to be taking on this new role and hope to help set the standard for how new graduates in the UK should be supported in their early years.
“It is well known that the first years in practice are hugely influential in shaping long-term careers in the profession. By nurturing and supporting new graduates as they make the transition from student to veterinary professional, we hope to help them grow to their full potential within CVS.
“Of course, the past few years within the profession have been especially challenging, and the support that we offer needs to respond and adapt to these changes. With mental health issues endemic within the veterinary profession, we feel it is crucial that pastoral care and well-being is prioritised.
“We are, therefore, very excited to be joining CVS in these newly developed new graduate pastoral support roles, which are solely dedicated to providing this crucial support to the new graduates on the CVS New Graduate Programme.”
- Applications for the 2022 New Graduate Summer Camp and New Graduate Programme are still open, with interviews having begun. You can still apply at https://bit.ly/3NPws5m