lack of ems concern
Letter: Concern over potential lack of EMS resulting from higher college numbers (VT 43.42)

I would like to thank Michal Szulc and Jill Hubbard for their letter in a recent edition of Veterinary Times (Vol.43, No.42), in which they speak of an issue close to my heart: in-practice training of vets and nurses.

The TP and EMS schemes try to do the same thing, but are structured very differently. Michal and Jill are concerned that the opening of new vet schools will mean a shortage of EMS places. However, I will try to explain the schemes and why I think it is unlikely there will ever be a shortage of EMS placements.

Nurses are familiar with terms such as SVN, TP, CC, NPL, AO, SIII (see glossary below) – all lovely acronyms that cover our training scheme, but also limit the number of nurses that can be trained at any one time.

Training practices must:

  • have an agreement with the RCVS, and a training provider that is renewed annually.
  • agree to visits from the college, usually annually, but as required.
  • submit to an annual health and safety inspection (there may be a cost attached to this)
      • The work required for this visit is similar to that of the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS).
  • have a vet or nurse trained as a clinical coach (CC). Rough guidance suggests two students per CC.
      • The CC must be standardised at least annually and will be risk-banded according to the progress of their students. High risk CC’s and practices will require further support, for which they may be charged.
      • The CC must attend CPD relevant to their role.

Nurse training at CAW

Therefore there is a natural limit to the number of training places for potential student nurses, particularly as the costs and extra workload put many practices off. However, there has been a slight increase in TPs in the past year, which is brilliant news. The number is now just over 2,000.

However the fact remains that a training provider cannot just set up a course and enrol students. The first thought is: where will they gain practical experience?

Many colleges teach animal care. They have access to many of the needs of a VN course, and could become a VN training provider – if placements could be found.

And so to EMS (Extra Mural Studies for those that don’t know).

Vet students are required to undertake EMS as part of their degree. The UK is a world leader in ensuring practical competencies are achieved during training, rather than post qualification. For further information, visit the RCVS website.

The scheme is an undoubted success. However in the recommendations and guidelines there are none of the requirements of joining the VN training scheme. Recommendations and guidelines are very different to the rigours of the TP scheme. Notably there is no cost attached to EMS.

I don’t think either scheme is perfect. Elements have been swapped between the two, with the vet PDP (Professional Development Phase) similar to the existing nurse NPL.

QuoteTherefore, is there not a happy medium? Could more elements from the Practice Standards Scheme and EMS not be followed through to the TP scheme?

As PSS is so similar could the visit not be extended to include the few areas not duplicated by the TP visit? Practices could then elect to become a TP while being part of PSS, which could also save practices paying twice for similar visits.

As I have said before, clinical coaches are the unsung heroes of the training scheme, for vets and nurses. A new grad vet once confided in my husband (non-vet bod) that “the nurses get you through and improve you at the same time”. But we need more of us to do that – so can we please consider changing the schemes?


* Training glossary

SVN: Student Veterinary Nurse – Registered with a college, an awarding organisation and the RCVS. Attending college and has a SVN placement in practice. Recognised as an SVN under Schedule 3.

TP: Training Practice – a veterinary practice registered with the RCVS. Has a full H&S assessment every year. Must employ RVNs/Vets with further training as a CC. At least annual standardisation and practice visits required.

CC: Clinical Coach – an RVN or MRCVS who has attended a training course that provides training in coaching staff. Require a contract of employment that reflects this as part of their job role. At least annual standardisation required and record of relevant CPD.

NPL: Nursing Progress Log – an online record of tasks practiced and competent in. Competency awarded by CC and monitored by college.

AO: Awarding Organisation – RCVS / City & Guilds / Central Qualifications (CQ) for VN Diploma and various universities for FdSc and BSc students.

SIII: Schedule 3 – an amendment to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. Starting to define role of VN/RVN and covers activities and support for SVN.

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[…] In a recent article I wrote of the differences between EMS for vet students and the TP scheme for student nurses. […]


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