VetEd Symposium 2017


The VetEd Symposium is one of my favourite events to attend, probably because I am so passionate about veterinary education! This year, VetEd was held in my ‘veterinary home town’ of Liverpool. The organisers from the University of Liverpool Vet School hosted a fantastic programme including keynote speakers, workshops, presented poster sessions and a fabulous Gala Dinner at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Professor Susan Dawson kicked things off by making an observation that old habits die hard because the vast majority of the delegates were sat towards the back of the lecture theatre! Susan also congratulated Professor Susan Rhind who had received her OBE for services to veterinary education earlier in the week! Very impressive achievement!

Louise O’Dwyer provided the first keynote presentation on “Teamwork and breaking down the hierarchy in veterinary medicine”. Louise started her presentation with a statistic highlighting that poor teamwork is a factor in 40% of human emergency medicine malpractice cases. The components of a good team include: people with individual competence who are also happy to work within a team; clear communication; task motivation; and a shared goal. An emphasis was placed on situation monitoring where Louise highlighted that when surgical procedures were carried out until all of the surgeries were complete led to increased stress and fatigue. Now breaks have been introduced into the structure of surgical plan for the day which has reduced fatigue in the practice. Louise discussed the importance of team members looking out for each other and sharing the workload in order to reduce work overload on particular individuals. Talking to others in the practice if you are feeling stressed was actually something Louise and I discussed on her recent critical care webinar with The Webinar Vet. Towards the end of Louise’s presentation, she provided an overview of how to provide feedback. This can be a tricky subject but it’s vital to build confidence and it is a part of the learning process. Feedback should be timely, respectful, specific (provide examples), directed towards improvements and considerate. I am a massive fan of Louise’s clinical presentations and I was excited to see a non-clinical presentation from her! Of course, Louise didn’t disappoint!

Next, I trotted off to a workshop on motivational interviewing skills with Alison Blaxter and Alison Bard from the University of Bristol. If like me, you’re a helper and try your best to provide solutions to problems that people present to you (I do this as a vet but also anyone who asks for my help), you may benefit from motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing is used in human medicine as an evidence-based method of initiating behaviour changes when dealing with an ambivalent person. In a veterinary context, sometimes your consultations consist of people who are motivated to make changes so when you make suggestions, they are compliant with the advice you provide. However, if you are dealing with someone who is on the fence about implementing changes, motivational interviewing could be a powerful technique to use. It is more of a guiding style so instead of listing the changes that could be made to achieve the desired result, the person is asked how they think they could reach the target. Initiating an ambivalent person to think of ideas is a way of trying to give ownership of the changes to the person and moving away from providing prescriptive advice. This approach wouldn’t work for all consultations but could work well for weight management clinics, for example.

It has been quite some time since I’ve sat in one of Professor the Lord Sandy Trees’ lectures on parasitology but he provided a keynote session on a completely different subject, “Retention of graduates in the profession”. Sandy began his presentation by stating that the need for vets has never been stronger but the veterinary profession is facing a workforce crisis because the number of new graduates in the UK is fairly static, postgraduate retention is decreasing and Brexit is also likely to lead to a reduction of vets in the UK. Sandy is, however, optimistic about the profession overall, stating that we are a part of a talented professional with transferable skills and that working within the private industry means that we can be more flexible and responsive to changes. Could the transition into the workplace help increase postgraduate retention? For the first time at VetEd, there was a debate and the topic up for debate was “Transition into the workplace – is it the job of the vet schools or the profession?” The majority of delegates initially agreed that vet schools should be doing more but after 50 minutes of discussing this question, some delegates changed their mind to indicate that the profession should do more to help teach on the job and provide more structure to new graduates like in human medicine. What do you think?

The closing address was provided by Professor Gavin Brown, who is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of Liverpool. Gavin provided a summary of hilarious highlights (using photographic footage captured by Kieron Salmon) and thanked the 163 delegates from 12 countries for attending the conference in Liverpool. There were some VetEd firsts at Liverpool, the debate session, poster prizes (the student winner was Ruby Cox who won some books sponsored by Royal Canin, and Celine Walsh and Karen Dunne won registration for next year’s VetEd) and the announcement that for the first time, VetEd will not be held in the UK. Next year the symposium will be held in Utrecht. Can’t wait!

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