You probably have not met many vets that studied in the UK. Yet, if you want to work in the UK, they are going to account for a huge proportion of the people around you. Although they’ve also been to vet school, just like you, their experience and “baggage” may be quite different from yours. This article is going to bring to your attention some of the experience of a good proportion of vets that have recently studied in the UK.
1. Learning styles
In some universities, teaching veterinary medicine may be approached slightly differently than you’d expect. Some of the UK universities don’t run their curriculum based on subjects, but on systems. That means that instead of learning Biochemistry, Pathology, Anatomy, etc., students learn about the gastrointestinal system, where they learn all of the relevant topics associated with the main system, from Physiology to Anatomy to Histology and Pathology. This makes for an integrated approach and may facilitate learning for these students. There are, however, other universities that run a more standard curriculum.
Studying in the UK is very very expensive. The vast majority of UK vet students have had to ask for a student loan that they have to repay after graduation, once they start working. Fees for studying in the UK can reach almost £10 000 per year! Put that together with living expenses, as many students have to rent a room to stay, and you can see how some UK graduates worry that they aren’t able to pay for the loan if they don’t get a good job. This is also why some of them feel reluctant about changing career after having invested so much time, effort and money in the 5-year course.
3. The amount of hands-on experience
The UK veterinary degrees rely heavily on hands-on experience. It’s very common for year 1 students to start practising technical procedures, like intubation, even before they know what it’s for. This is a way to help them develop those skills from “doing” instead of “hearing” about them. Suturing is another commonly performed task even in early stages of the degree. And this is why UK new graduates often have a lot more technical skills than overseas vets, even if they have been working abroad.
4. The requirement to be familiar with “real life”
In the UK, all veterinary schools require students to complete “EMS”, Extra-Mural Studies. Students have to spend several weeks visiting clinical practices away from the university, where they are exposed to the day-to-day of clinical practice, their challenges and how everything works. They get to see real cases, real clients, which they speak to and work with. As an EMS student, they may even be performing surgical procedures! This means that their technical skills and also “soft skills”, such as how to deal with owners, are also improved as undergraduates, so they are better prepared for their clinical work when they finish university and start working.
5. Intense focus on clinical practice
Although the curriculum covers all areas, including food safety, there is a strong emphasis in clinical practice (small animal, farm animal and equine). The majority of vet students in the UK want to work in the area and only a small percentage wants to take on other roles, like Pathology. However, after graduation, the trials of clinical practice push some of them into other non-clinical areas.
Did you know about all of these?