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Survey of veterinary technical and professional skills in students and recent graduates of a veterinary college

Carol E. Tinga MSc1, Cindy L. Adams PhD2, Brenda N. Bonnett DVM, PhD3, and Carl S. Ribble DVM, PhD4
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  • 1 3B Caledonia St, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2C4.
  • | 2 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.
  • | 3 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.
  • | 4 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.

Abstract

Objectives—To determine perceptions of veterinary technical and professional skills among veterinary students and recent graduates.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—281 students and 142 recent graduates from the Ontario Veterinary College.

Procedure—A survey was designed and administered to first- through fourth-year students and veterinarians who had graduated either 1 or 6 years before survey administration.

Results—Overall response rate was 70%. Learning about technical and professional skills was highly valued. Most participants felt they had not received instruction about professional skills, but those who had felt more competent about them. Perceptions of competence increased slightly with increased comfort discussing emotional veterinary issues with instructors. Neither gender nor increased age was related to increased feelings of competence. Almost all fourth-year students felt competent and comfortable about examining an animal with the client present, assessing suffering, diagnosing parvovirus infection, performing surgery, and working as group members. However, many did not feel competent or comfortable about delivering bad news, setting time limits yet providing quality service, helping clients with limited funds make treatment decisions, dealing with demanding people, and euthanasia. Feelings of competence and comfort were closely related but were not identical.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In the interests of best preparing entry-level veterinarians, technical and professional skills need to be emphasized in a learning environment where students feel comfortable discussing emotional veterinary issues. A professional skills curriculum addressing underlying selfawareness, communication, and interpersonal issues, as well as procedural matters, would likely increase the proportion of fourth-year students who feel competent and comfortable about professional skills by the end of their undergraduate training. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:924–931)

Abstract

Objectives—To determine perceptions of veterinary technical and professional skills among veterinary students and recent graduates.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—281 students and 142 recent graduates from the Ontario Veterinary College.

Procedure—A survey was designed and administered to first- through fourth-year students and veterinarians who had graduated either 1 or 6 years before survey administration.

Results—Overall response rate was 70%. Learning about technical and professional skills was highly valued. Most participants felt they had not received instruction about professional skills, but those who had felt more competent about them. Perceptions of competence increased slightly with increased comfort discussing emotional veterinary issues with instructors. Neither gender nor increased age was related to increased feelings of competence. Almost all fourth-year students felt competent and comfortable about examining an animal with the client present, assessing suffering, diagnosing parvovirus infection, performing surgery, and working as group members. However, many did not feel competent or comfortable about delivering bad news, setting time limits yet providing quality service, helping clients with limited funds make treatment decisions, dealing with demanding people, and euthanasia. Feelings of competence and comfort were closely related but were not identical.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In the interests of best preparing entry-level veterinarians, technical and professional skills need to be emphasized in a learning environment where students feel comfortable discussing emotional veterinary issues. A professional skills curriculum addressing underlying selfawareness, communication, and interpersonal issues, as well as procedural matters, would likely increase the proportion of fourth-year students who feel competent and comfortable about professional skills by the end of their undergraduate training. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:924–931)