The veterinary profession is under more pressure than ever before. Many veterinarians suffer with work-related stress and burn-out, resulting in them leaving practice, many within a few years of graduating.
Many believe this work-related stress is exacerbated by an experienced gap in the difference between life at university, learning how to be a vet, and putting all of that knowledge into practice, working as a vet.
The differences between these two phases of the life of a vet can be analogised by learning to drive:
Your lessons help you get ready for your test and, yes, after these lessons, technically you can drive – you have the knowledge needed to pass your test. Passing proves you have learnt all the rules and regulations for driving as well as the technicalities. But, once you have passed your test and are in the car alone, you will experience a whole host of scenarios that you can’t possibly have prepared for – much like newly qualified vets.
As more seasoned vets with experience under our belts, it is our job to help our newly qualified colleagues with this transition. To help them build their confidence, to guide them when they are unsure and to help them understand that they can ask for help.
With that in mind, a useful tool has been developed to help with their transition and future development – Entrustable Professional Activities.
EPAs can be defined as a circumscribed amount of professional practice (real authentic work that has to be done) consisting of multiple integrated domains of competence together with knowledge, skills and attitudes that can be entrusted to a trainee as soon as he or she has demonstrated the necessary competence to execute this activity unsupervised.
We believe that introducing EPAs will help support the transition from education to practice, reduce work-related stress, increase job fulfilment, encourage engagement and help them come to grips with life in practice.
In collaboration with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University, early data from a small study of 14 vets who had graduated within the last 2½ years suggests that EPAs help provide a more favourable work-life balance and decrease work-related stress as well as providing support for starting professional development.
Robert Favier DVM, PhD and Program Director at the IVC Evidensia Academy in the Netherlands, is currently completing a second PhD project focusing on optimising learning through assessment of trainees and professionals across the continuum of veterinary education and practice, forming a large part of his thesis.