I recently spent a long weekend at the London Vet Show, which is a conference and commercial exhibition for vets. Events like this are held in various places in the UK, in fact all over the world. They offer vets a chance to attend lectures on the latest advances in veterinary medicine, learn about new drugs, new equipment and new techniques in surgery. In the commercial exhibition there are stands run by drug companies, charities and the sellers of all kinds of pet related items. It is also a great way of meeting up with old friends and colleagues.
Although it took me as long to navigate one third of the M25 as it took me to get to the M25 from Devon, it was well worth the trip. I stayed with an old friend from my student days and met other friends, some planned and some a surprise. We had several nice meals out, but no time for sight-seeing on this visit.
Back at the conference, there was a choice of lectures all day, given by speakers who are renowned in their particular field. Many different subjects were covered, including cardiology, parasitology, dental disease and abdominal surgery. Every minute of the day was filled with opportunities to learn new facts or revise known ones.
Veterinary medicine is changing and advancing very rapidly. Many of the techniques which have been available in human medicine for a long time are becoming possible or even routine in animal medicine such as hip replacements, chemo-therapy and MRI scans.
Although all UK-trained vets have studied for a minimum of 5 years, and vets from overseas must have a recognised qualification to practice in the UK, we would very quickly become out of date if we stopped learning on graduation. Practical skills are learned all the time, with new graduates now undergoing a supervised process of gaining skills called the Professional Development Phase. This has to be a good way of easing the transition between student and vet, compared with days gone by when a newly qualified vet could be “thrown in at the deep end” in their first job. Looking back, I think I was quite lucky with the supervision and support I received in my first job. Without support or experience, the first few months could be terrifying.
All vets also have an obligation to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) throughout their working lives. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for vets, recommends a minimum of 35 hours per year. Many vets will do a lot more than this, especially if studying for a further qualification in an area of special interest. As well as formal conferences, CPD can consist of online learning, home study, small meetings within a practice or shadowing colleagues with particular skills. All CPD hours have to be recorded and can be checked by the RCVS at any time.
During my London visit I spent enough time on the underground to last me a whole year, but I enjoyed my trip and gained some useful hours towards my required CPD. I came home with a lot of new knowledge and ideas which I know will be useful sooner or later.