5 October 2020
SVNs and the challenging situations faced with their final practical assessments.
The BVNA have received a number of queries from student veterinary nurses (SVNs) regarding the challenging situation with their final practical assessments.
In summary, many SVNs feel that they have been disadvantaged by the cancellation of the OSCEs that were due to take place in March, June and September as for some of them, it is six months since they should have graduated on to the register.
To add to this, a large number of VN-PBA exams have been postponed at short notice due to either GDPR issues in the student’s cases or due to availability of examiners.
The following email was received by a concerned student and she has given permission for extracts to be published to explain how she and her peers are feeling. We are in contact with the student and agree that it is important that the veterinary and Education industry are aware of the range of issues final year students are facing.
“I am writing to you today to make you aware of the current situation faced by student veterinary nurses throughout Scotland. This situation has completely impacted our future career and opportunity to seek work in the field. I am studying a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing under the examination of City and Guilds.
Myself, my classmates and many other students at different colleges throughout the United Kingdom have worked extremely hard for the past few years with the intention we would sit our OSCES in June 2020. Due to lockdown restrictions these exams were cancelled. We continued our full-time mandatory placements in veterinary practice, working difficult conditions as key workers with no wages or college bursary, and as a level three diploma unable to claim a student loan.
Our ideal hope that the practical exams would be available for us in September. These have now been made unavailable to us and it is being said we will most likely have to wait till March 2021 to sit our final exams.
I think it is completely detrimental to not only our future careers as Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN’s) it is detrimental to the tax payer funding those capable of full-time work but due to restrictions on our qualification being forced to claim government funding. It has also been extremely detrimental to all our mental health.
I struggle to understand how it is acceptable for the governing bodies to allow Doctors, Nurses and Veterinary Surgeons to qualify this year without sitting OSCE’s however it is still mandatory for the Veterinary Nurses to sit these examinations. I feel we have been completely let down. Our livelihood and passion is to help animals day to day but we are being halted in our future careers and reputable members of the RCVS to do this by having to wait 8 months for our final exam.
My intention of this note is to raise awareness of the plight of an upcoming workforce faced with a great difficulty in light of current global pandemic, with the news that higher education is being determined by teachers/tutors, I am hoping to find an alternate method in which we can gain our qualification. Using a similar approach, our college tutors or clinical coaches could determine a fair judgment of our registration as veterinary nurses.
I should also add that throughout our training we fulfil a nursing progress log which is vetted and signed off by clinical coaches and course tutors throughout our two years, with almost 2000 hours of practical hands on training along with hundreds of hours of college classes and quarterly exams throughout the course. I believe at this point we have proven our full clinical ability’s and waiting 8 months for the chance to prove ourselves should be evaluated by the education authorities.
I feel this profession is being overlooked and requires some assistance.
Kind Regards, Student Veterinary Nurse”
The BVNA are very sorry that a large number of students are facing such difficult circumstances at the moment and we would like to reassure you that we are working with others in the veterinary industry to support you as much as possible.
Many of you will be aware of the situation that a lot of the final year level 3 diploma SVNs have found themselves in, but you may not be aware of what is being done to try to help and support the students through this.
The cancellation of the OSCEs due to COVID-19 led the Ofqual Extraordinary Regulatory Framework to request that Centres look to alternatives to the practical examinations that allowed students to demonstrate competency. RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council (VNC) created a taskforce to look at alternative ways of assessing practical skills and developed the Patient-based Assessment (VN-PBA) for students who were eligible to sit the March and June OSCE sessions.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had an impact on the amount of communication available due to staff at C&G being furloughed. To try to address this, the BVNA have arranged a number of meetings with representatives from City & Guilds (C&G) and the RCVS to answer questions from the educators.
This has been seen as very valuable by the educators who could directly ask questions and therefore communicate more fully with their students. These meetings enabled C&G to see the full extent of the challenges faced by students and educators and they have worked hard to try to rectify as many problems as possible. They have recently drawn up agreements with Central Qualifications and VetSkill so that students can sit OSCE type assessments with them to achieve their veterinary nursing qualification and complete their apprenticeship. Centres can contact either awarding organisation to arrange assessments for their students.
The BVNA have kept in close contact with Julie Dugmore, Director of Veterinary Nursing at the RCVS and have given her feedback and comments that we have received from students. Julie has endeavoured to answer all queries that the RCVS have received from students and Centres. She has also kept the BVNA informed of decisions made by the VN Council.
Both C&G and the RCVS were asked to respond to the attached student’s email. Unfortunately, C&G do not respond to individual emails but have put FAQs on their website to help students. They have also worked closely with CQ and VetSkill so that students can sit practical exams with these awarding organisations to complete their qualification. Students should ask their training centre about how they can do this.
Julie Dugmore (Director of Veterinary Nursing) has already responded personally to the student in August and has updated her response as below:
“The BVNA has asked for me to respond to the concerns outlined in your email and I would therefore like to add to my personal response that I sent to you in August.
Firstly, I am really sorry for all the anguish that COVID-19 has caused to student veterinary nurses (SVNs) and I fully understand your frustrations at the delay in your qualification and subsequent registration.
I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that veterinary surgeons are still required to demonstrate the RCVS Day One Competences have been met prior to graduation and, where Vet Schools use alternative methods of assessment, RCVS must be assured that these methods are valid and reliable.
In response to your concerns, the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council (VNC) created a taskforce to look at alternative ways of assessing practical skills and, in accordance with the Office of Qualifications and Regulation (Ofqual) Extraordinary Regulatory Framework (ERF), developed the Patient-based Assessment (VN-PBA) for students who were eligible to sit the March and June OSCE sessions. Should Ofqual extend the ERF to students being assessed beyond 31 July, VNC will of course extend the availability of the VN-PBA.
The good news is that City & Guilds has recently made agreements with Central Qualifications and VetSkill which allows City & Guilds students to undertake OSCEs with these awarding organisations that will lead to awarding of their Level 3 VN Diploma qualification. If students are eligible, they should contact their Centre (training provider) so that this can arranged.
RCVS has joined several Educator Network meetings with C&G and Educators to discuss the various challenges faced and develop potential resolutions. We continue to keep in touch with organisations such as the BVNA to support students through these difficult and challenging times.
I have responded to many queries from SVNs and will continue to do so as long as is needed.
I hope this goes some way to alleviate your anxieties and frustrations however, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require further clarification and I wish you good luck in the future.
Jo Oakden, BVNA Junior Vice President and also a clinical coach:
“Going through training as a Student Veterinary Nurse is tough in the best of circumstances. The situation we are facing now is completely unique and has never been encountered before. Every single person is on a learning curve of how adapt and face these new challenges thrown at us.
COVID-19 has highlighted how important communication is, and BVNA is playing its important role in bringing these communication channels together to try to find some resolution to the issues facing our student nurses.
There is always someone to talk to. You are not alone. Together we will figure our way through this and come out the other side. Our Student Nurses are valued, you are the future of our profession. Please do contact us, your college or the RCVS for support.”
No-one knows what will happen in the near future and we all hope that SVNs will be able to take their final OSCEs or VN-PBAs soon so they can graduate and have their names on the register. We all need to be aware of the stress that this is putting on students and ensure that we give them the support that they need.
The BVNA does not always let you know what we are doing to help and support you, but we want to assure you that our staff and Council members are working hard on your behalf. Any member, either student or registered veterinary nurse can contact our advisory service. You will need your membership number which can be found on the top left of your account profile.
We wanted to let you know that there are many organisations including colleges and universities working hard in the background to try to address the issues students are facing. The BVNA will continue to facilitate meetings between stakeholders in order to speed up the problem-solving process and we will keep you informed as much as possible.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at the BVNA and we will help where we can. You should also send questions to your awarding organisation, training centre and tutors so they are aware of your concerns and to answer any queries where possible.