Significant reform of EMS needed: BVA launches new policy position

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is calling for the Extra-mural Studies (EMS) requirement of veterinary education to be reviewed and updated to make it effective, accessible, and sustainable for today’s veterinary students, vet schools and EMS providers.

One of the foundations of veterinary education in the UK since 1932, EMS gives students valuable hands-on experience, putting skills learned at vet school into practice in a range of veterinary workplaces. Whilst new BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession research reveals EMS is considered valuable – just over nine in ten respondents (94%) say it provides students with “real world” experience and supports the development of clinical (85%) and communication skills (77%) – little has changed to reflect how veterinary education has evolved, or the growing pressures on both students and workforces.

Following more than a year of discussions with a dedicated working group of students, recent graduates, employers and academics, BVA’s new policy position Student-led work placements: a new vision for EMS recommends significant reform.

BVA research revealed the most common difficulties reported about EMS by over half of newly qualified vets and students were the location of the placement (54%), its cost (52%), and the availability of placements (48%) and accommodation (39%). With ever increasing numbers of vet schools and students, all of whom will need to take part in EMS placements, and a workforce which is already under pressure, meeting the growing demand will become more difficult and create more competition for placements.

The policy position calls for a move away from a fixed-time commitment for EMS towards an outcomes-based approach to help create a personalised learning experience and goals for each student.  BVA is also calling for the Royal College of Veterinary Students (RCVS) to remove the fixed-time requirement from clinical EMS and allow vet schools to develop placements that are integrated with their specific curriculums. The policy also recommends exploring the development of a national matching service for placements, as well as more training and support for veterinary professionals who provide placements. 

President of the Association of Veterinary Students Jack Conway added: “AVS welcomes the BVA’s stance on EMS and shares the view that the EMS system is outdated and needs to be revolutionised. Our firm belief is that EMS must be inclusive, non-discriminatory, and tailored to meet the needs of modern-day veterinary students, placement providers, and all other stakeholders involved. We are committed to collaborating with the BVA and other concerned parties to modernise the EMS process and ensure that it aligns with current trends and practices in the veterinary profession.”

BVA President Malcolm Morley said: “EMS can be incredibly rewarding for both students and the veterinary professionals who provide placements. However, what we are hearing is that with demand for placements increasing at a time the workforce is already under pressure, it has become clear something needs to change. We welcome the positive changes the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has recently proposed to EMS, but more is needed to ensure it is suitable and beneficial for all involved in modern-day veterinary work and education.”

Vet and Chair of the BVA working group on EMS Liz Mossop said: “The recent changes to EMS announced by the RCVS are a positive step – however the working group very much felt, through our extensive stakeholder conversations, that these are not enough. More needs to be done to reform EMS so it aligns with modern teaching methods and is sustainable for today’s veterinary students and professionals.”

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