One of the biggest challenges of being a vet is also one of its joys: it’s the fact that you are committed to a lifetime of learning.
It starts at school: if you don't get straight "A's" in your final exams, you're unlikely to get a place on the veterinary course at university. So you need to study hard – and do exceptionally well - as a school student.
The intensive studying continues at vet school, with a tough schedule of lectures, tutorials and practicals, five days a week for at least five years. Newly qualified vets need to know the basics about every species of animal: it’s impossible to amass this type of knowledge without many hours of reading and learning.
And once you’ve qualified, that’s just the beginning: all practising veterinary surgeons listed on the RCVS Register must complete the minimum CPD requirement, regardless of whether they are working full-time or part-time. That means a total of 105 hours in any three-year period, with an average of 35 hours per year. If a full day of study is taken as seven hours, that means five days of full time study every year.
While some of this education can be done at home, through completing distance courses or online webinars, the most effective way to learn is to travel to attend face-to-face teaching courses.
Some of this education happens at one-off lectures (lunch-times or evenings) or specific courses (e.g. learning a specific topic such as ultrasound over a weekend), but the easiest and most popular way to bag a bundle of CPD hours is by attending conferences. And perhaps the best example is the BSAVA congress, which is happening this week: if you go to a pre-conference special interest group day on Wednesday as well as the full four days from Thursday to Sunday, that’s a full thirty five CPD points sorted out all at once.
This is the 61st annual BSAVA congress: this statistic alone speaks volumes for the success of the BSAVA formula. Around 7,000 delegates from around the world will gather to attend a four day programme with over a dozen simultaneous streams of over 450 lectures and practical sessions from the world’s leading veterinary speakers . There's also a huge commercial exhibition, with hundreds of companies demonstrating the latest products, equipment and services for vets. If you are interested in learning the latest and best about what’s going on in the small animal veterinary world, the BSAVA congress is the place to be this week.
The bit of the congress that’s arguably one of the most enjoyable and educational doesn’t even qualify for CPD points, although many argue that it should do: the social element. If you want to learn about new ways of tackling issues in practice, informal chat with friends and colleagues can be the best way. Every visit to BSAVA congress includes many reunions with old classmates and plenty of chat about challenging cases.
I’m a serial BSAVA congress-goer: I’ve been qualified for over thirty years, and I have been to over twenty congresses. Every year I worry that I’ll tire of the event, but that’s never happened. There’s always something new and interesting going on, and I always come back to my own practice from congress reinfused with enthusiasm and cheerfulness about my job as a vet.
In recent years, I’ve taken to adding a bit of science-communication to my attendance at BSAVA congress, reporting to the public with interesting snippets via my Facebook page. If you want to find out what I’m up to, look for Pete the Vet on Facebook. See you at BSAVA Congress – in person or virtually...