A few years ago, when I was Chair of BSAVA's Membership Development Committee (MDC), the membership category we were focusing on was new and recent graduates. We had noticed a dip in membership just after vets graduated. Some of this was inevitable (student membership of BSAVA is free so uptake is high and not all graduates go into small animal practice) but the drop was a little greater than usual and implied that this group did not feel they were getting enough from their membership. By then, the RCVS’s Professional Development Phase (PDP) had been running for a few years. I was the first cohort for whom the PDP was compulsory and I am now an employer of new graduates so I was familiar with the principles behind the concept and how it had developed. As a committee, MDC discussed what BSAVA could do to help this group of our membership and decided to create a resource which would run parallel to the official RCVS PDP requirements. We decided initially to focus on those areas where information was tricky to find. The first thing to do was some groundwork identifying the subjects we needed to cover and I am grateful to Will Walker, a committee member at the time, for his efforts in this. An outline structure was created and agreed and then it was costed out. Council voted it through and it was then up to MDC to run with it!
A major project like this requires a lot of time and effort from the staff at Woodrow House, BSAVA HQ. Kate King joined the education team at just the right time. She took the PDP project up as one of her tasks and has worked tirelessly on the content and layout to create the resource you see today.
Whilst the PDP resource is aimed at new graduates, the information it contains is relevant for a much larger audience. New graduates are (generally) employees and the employer has a responsibility to ensure the PDP is completed accurately and effectively. A criticism sometimes (unfairly, in my opinion) levelled at the PDP is that it is a tick box exercise. Certainly, it can be if this is how you choose to use it. But it should be seen as a tool and guide for the first year or two in practice. No online system can replace a good mentor or an appraisal system but it is not intended to do so either. Rather it is a roadmap to be used to get to the ultimate destination of a competent and confident veterinary surgeon. And like a map, there are many different routes and speeds that can be taken, depending on the people (and practice) involved. The emphasis on self-learning in the BSAVA’s PDP Resource reflects this. No one is watching what you view or how many times you view it!
One area of the resource is aimed at employers. It is important that employers are comfortable with the concepts that new graduates will be coming across. It introduces basic management concepts, tips on employing new graduates, how to develop your skills as a mentor and many more. Being a new graduate can be incredibly stressful (as can being an employer) so hopefully the PDP resource can help reduce stress levels in this one area! And it also signposts to other resources if stress levels are a problem…
I can also see this resource being useful to graduates from overseas who want a perspective on small animal practice in the UK and also to those returning to work from a career break.
One of the problems for us is that the information we put up needs editing and ensuring that it is relevant. Initially, this was done by MDC volunteers but the project has expanded such that we have recruited an editorial board consisting of BSAVA volunteers. I have since left MDC and taken up the role of Honorary Treasurer of BSAVA and, as the project has passed into the implementation rather than the concept phase, it has become a standalone project for the association. The PDP editorial board are responsible for reviewing the material and ensuring it stays relevant. This board also feeds into BSAVA Board (via me).
We have consulted the RCVS at various stages of the development of this resource to ensure it is as useful as it can be. Both BSAVA and the RCVS are interested in the impact of the PDP resource and where there are gaps in support available. We are also interested in what works and what doesn’t work about the concept. We have combined resources to undertake a piece of research to investigate this, via a third party. There is a group with representatives from both organisations who are overseeing the tender process at the moment and we should have the results next year. This will allow BSAVA to provide more focused support where it is needed.
And all this seems to be working! Our latest figures show a gradual rise in the number of new graduate members and our (anonymous) website user stats show the resource is being well used. Hopefully this will continue to be the case and the PDP resource will sit alongside the other new graduate membership benefits as essential tools for the first couple of years as an MRCVS.
BSAVA members can access the PDP resource bank here
Sheldon Middleton is currently Honorary Treasurer of BSAVA.
Sheldon graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2007. He stayed in the area as a new graduate, taking a job in a mixed practice in Bedford. He became Senior Vet there in 2011 and a Partner in 2013.
Sheldon’s BSAVA career started immediately after graduation when he joined the East Anglia regional committee. He then took on the roles of Treasurer, Secretary and Chair of the region in succession and afterwards became a Regional Representative. This led him to be a committee member of the Membership Development Committee and he subsequently became Chair. Sheldon became Honorary Treasurer of the Association in 2016.