Guide to PDP

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					           Guide to PDP
                                                                        June 2007
This document has been produced by the Society of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons
for the benefit of its members, with the kind of help of representatives from practice
and especially the RCVS. It contains information and advice for the new grads and
mentors, as well as their employers.

It is a “living” document, inasmuch as it is to be regularly modified and updated as
the first year of the compulsory PDP. It is an attempt by SPVS and the RCVS to
predict and pre-empt how the PDP will run, but there may well be additions or edits,
as the months (and the new grads) develop. If you have any comments, they would be
most appreciated at, marked subject “PDP Guide”.

Although every attempt has been made to ensure that the advice contained in this
publication is accurate at the time of going to press, no responsibility can be accepted
for any inadvertent mis-statement or misrepresentation of the legal provisions quoted,
the requirements of the statutory bodies referred to, or any other associated matters.
Members are advised that definitive legal advice can be provided only by the
professional advisers or the statutory bodies concerned.


This guide is divided into several sections. The first section describes what PDP is. A
working knowledge of PDP is sensible before you start, so that you know what you
will need to put into it and what you can expect to get out of it. The second section
describes how you do it. The third section answers a number of F.A.Q.s. The
penultimate section contains extracts from some testaments from those who have been
involved in the scheme so far. The final section contains some further references that
may assist you more.

Introduction…………………………………………………………... 3

What the PDP should achieve ………………………….…………… 5

       The Three Areas ……………………………………………... 6

       What Is Expected At Day One and Year One……………….. 8

       What Else a New Grad Should Have Achieved by Year One.9

How to do PDP……………………………………………………….. 10

       The PDP Record..……………………………………………... 10
            Clinical Procedures Checklist (skills)…………………. 10
            Graphs…………………………………………………... 11
            Notes …………………………………………………….. 12
            Declaration ……………………………………………... 14

       Meetings between New Grads and Mentors…………………. 16

Advice for Employers………………………………………………... 17

Questions……………………………………………………………… 18

Testaments……………………………………………………………. 20

Useful Resources and Contacts……………………………………… 22


Congratulations on your graduation. You are now a full member of the royal college.
I.e. you are now a vet, and should feel duly proud. However, yours is the first year of
veterinary graduates for whom graduation is not the end of the story between student
and full veterinary surgeon. Henceforth, all new veterinary grads have to take part in
the Professional Development Phase (PDP). Previous years obviously did have a
phase in which to develop professionally (which hopefully never ends), but there were
no mandatory requirements. Some recent new grads in previous years to yours piloted
the scheme in 2003, 2004 and 2005. But you have the honour of being the first year
where everyone has to do it, and need to complete it before you can enrol on a RCVS

Depending on your mindset after university, it may seem to you to be either a drag or
an opportunity. In truth, it is a bit of both. It will take some extra time to complete,
and it will be another demand on you and your boss. Yet, also it will afford you
increased security that you will progress in the right way, at the right speed. It will
encourage your boss to support you, and your colleagues to assist you in increasing
your experience as you should.

The structure of the PDP has been long in the making. It was developed by the Royal
College of Veterinary Surgeons as part of its strategic review for veterinary education
and ongoing training. It is supported by the Society of Practicing Veterinary
Surgeons, which has always had a special interest in giving new graduates the support
they need as they step from the shelter of university into the big, wide world .
However, many new grads didn’t join SPVS or have very good bosses, and this left
many new grads in the past with both unrealistic demands from their bosses and             Deleted: (or insufficient training
                                                                                           at university)
inadequate support as they tried to develop the necessary skills. So many have been
unable to survive, let alone blossom in their first jobs. Consequently, the Royal
College of Veterinary Surgeons, of which you are a new member, developed the idea
into an obligatory process for all new veterinary graduates.

 PDP should enable new graduates to:
   • Structure in their early professional development, as they
      progress from recent graduate to fully-fledged veterinary
      surgeon capable of working alone.
   • Monitor, using an on-line system, the procedures that they have
      performed and reflect on how they have performed them
   • Be monitored and supported by the RCVS
   • Be mentored by a senior member of the practice in which they

While a lot of work has gone into the PDP, yours is the first year for which it is
mandatory, so, there it is possible that some of your year will experience a few
unforeseen teething problems. Some of these will be gradually rectified as years go
on, but that is little help for you. At the same time, while the PDP format should help
most new grads in most workplaces, there is a chance that some new grads may find it

This guide is created by SPVS to ensure that there are as few such people as possible
and that you are not one of them. With the right attitude and some simple advice,
every new grad can benefit from their PDP. If everyone approaches it in the right
way, there need not be any teething troubles at all, and you can have all the
opportunity, without any of the drag. This book is also aimed at everyone, so you will
need to be wise about what advice you take, depending on what you know about your
boss, your workplace and most of all yourself. You do not need to swallow everything
that is said here. Welcome to the big wide world and here’s how to enjoy it.

This guide is also intended to be useful to employers and senior vets. SPVS have
deliberately produced only one booklet for both the new grads and the older vets
because it is in the ethos of both SPVS and the PDP that both parties are working
together to help the new grad develop. For those bosses, congratulations on
employing a new grad. It is a significant responsibility that can bring with it
considerable reward. A good new grad is a useful addition to a team, but their energy
and enthusiasm can be easily wasted. So it is in your interest to make sure they
become fully competent as soon as possible. Furthermore, the RCVS has made it a
duty incumbent upon you to provide reasonable support, and the PDP helps you to do
just that. In fact, that’s all it is – just the minimal, across-the-board requirements. So
you can, and probably should, go beyond it. Just as you can improve your practice
beyond the Practice Standards Scheme demands, so too should you feel encouraged to
give other support – pastoral, professional, ethical – to your new grad. But do make
sure you do the basics.

What the PDP should achieve

The idea behind the PDP is that it should help you to move from “Day One
Competences” to “Year One Competences”. While there are lists of what these
concern, they are ultimately subjective - your development is your own call. You
should be in discussion with your “mentor”, who is a senior vet in the practice (ideally
a partner) who helps you to go through the PDP. If he/she is happy with you then that
is a good start. But it is your call ultimately. Nevertheless, it is well worth being
aware what the RCVS state are year one competences.

Both the Day One Competences and the Year One Competences concern the same
skills. The Year One Competences are set a bit higher – the level at which the RCVS
would expect you to be after about one year in practice. So by and large, the
descriptions of Day-One Competences and Year-One Competences are the same.
Each is broken down into three areas:


 A. describes general character or technical “virtues” of the vet,
 corresponding roughly to the sorts of things in Part A of the new
 Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice modular certificate

 B. describes basic clinical science, i.e. what you learnt at vet school.

 C. describes what vets should be able to do more specifically than A.
 Some are cognitively-based; some action-based; some knowledge-

 (The RCVS documents precede these with the 10 guiding principles of the
 RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct. The RCVS state repeatedly that you
 are bound by the ten guiding principles of the RCVS Guide to Professional
 Conduct and, while they are intuitive principles, to which you should adhere
 anyway, you should make yourself familiar with these principles as well as
 having some understanding of the overall Guidance.)

The next section looks at these areas in turn.

The Three Areas

A. General Professional Skills and Attributes

This section contains several general “virtues”, which you should be able to
demonstrate now and to a greater level after the PDP. Some examples include:

              Good communication (A.1) and good team-work (A.3). These should
              be “demonstrated to the satisfaction of the practice principal”. NB This
              does not explicitly mean that the principal must have witnessed it: if
              they are satisfied that without it being demonstrated to someone else,
              that would be fine.

              Clear case reports and patient records. It states that these should be
              prepared “in a form satisfactory to colleagues and understandable by
              the public” (A.2). The principle here is that case notes should be clear      Deleted: It may be that it is
                                                                                            impossible to do both these,
              and useable for any potential audience. It’s important to get into good       especially since the latter
              habits early on in case records need to be referred to by others at a later   requirement perhaps means using
                                                                                            no technical knowledge.
              date. This evidence can probably just come from wherever case notes
              are stored, but perhaps having some choice examples to hand might be

              Awareness of ethics and economics (A.4&5). You should “be aware”
              of your ethical responsibilities, even where they may appear to conflict
              with other demands such as economic demands.

              Know your limits (A.12). The RCVS stress this and of course they see
              many cases where things go wrong. The principle here is that you
              should be sufficiently aware of your own capabilities so that you aren’t
              afraid to ask for help or guidance from others when necessary. If taken
              to extremes, this would mean that you never develop! So this really
              doesn’t mean that you never attempt something new, but that you
              should not take something on when you’re not clear what you’re doing
              and when there’s no-one else around to refer to for direction if
              necessary. It may not be possible to demonstrate that you haven’t done
              over-reaching stuff, but you may be able to demonstrate where you
              have sought guidance or assistance when necessary.

B. Underpinning Knowledge and Understanding
These are what you learnt (at least temporarily) at university. It does include (B.27)
knowledge of medicines legislation, which keeps changing anyway, and is hard to
keep up with.                                                                               Comment [JWY1]: JWY1
                                                                                            Where is the SPVS advice on this?

C. Practical Competences
These are limited to your chosen area of expertise. So you don’t need to be able to do
every procedure to every animal – just those that you are working with.
These include:
           History-taking and clinical examinations (C.1&3). It is a year-one but not
           day-one competence that you can “develop a differential diagnosis allied
           to an approach for making a specific diagnosis”, i.e. you are not expected
           to be able to diagnose at day one. Combine this with A.12 and you
           shouldn’t make diagnoses until a year in!
           Obviously it can’t mean this, since by year-one you should be able to show
           evidence that you have diagnosed and successfully treated a selection of
           common medical conditions (C14).
           Emergency care (C.4). By year-one you should be able to also “provide
           advanced critical care”. This means going beyond basic emergency and
           first aid in the species with which you’re working, and for which you may
           need further specific training.
           Diagnostics (C.7). At day-one this is only using the equipment (e.g.
           radiographic equipment), but by year-one you should be able to interpret
           images (i.e. radiology) of common conditions.
           Know the 12 Principles of Certification (C.9). If you have never heard of
           these, you should make sure you know them. (While it is unlikely that you
           will be officially tested on them, this is where veterinary surgeons can
           sometimes get into trouble with the RCVS Disciplinary Committee.
           Failure to abide by the principles of certification not only could have very
           serious consequences for human and animal health, but could end your
           career before you even finish the PDP – it’s never worth the risk).

    The RCVS Principles of Certification

                    1. certify only about what you know
                    2. certify only about what you can verify
                    3. do not certify in possible conflicts of interest, e.g. your own
                    4. use simple language
                    5. use unambiguous language
                    6. be able to identify whole and part documents
                    7. use your own language
                    8. identify animals (usually)
                    9. certify only about non-UK laws where the terms are written
                        down there for you
                    10. read the notes of guidance
                    11. mark copies as “COPY” and duplicates as “duplicate”
                           a. do not write in black
                           b. sign changes
                           c. write your name, qualifications and address
                           d. date the certificate for the day you sign it (and when
                               it runs out)
                           e. don’t leave any official bits blank
What is expected at Day-One and at Year-One

Day-One: The RCVS gives guidance about what a new grad should be able to do on
day one. Reading these (especially in comparison to year-one competences), it is
remarkable how little the RCVS expect new grads to be able to do. Unfortunately,
many bosses expect (or at least choose to assume) that their new grads can do much
more. This is in some way fair enough - given that new grads know about TPLOs, it
seems not unreasonable for bosses to expect them to know how to do a bitch spay.
Indeed, one benefit of the PDP scheme also helps bosses realise that new grads are
just like junior house officers and cannot just be left to get on with it (and the PDP is a
diplomatic way for the RCVS to show this).

Year-One: Year One Competences, according to the RCVS, are “very similar to the
Day One Competences…except that…the new graduate will be expected to have had
actual experience of applying these competences in the work place and should be able
to perform or manage them without close supervision, in a reasonable period of time,
and with a high probability of successful outcome”. Less generally, some of the
specific competences change in their wording. Many of the things in (A) change from
requiring “awareness” on day-one, to “understanding” of them in year-one. Many of
the competences in (C) change from needing to be “able to undertake” to being “able
to demonstrate your competence in”. So, as a result of your “actual experience” you
are more involved with the procedures. In effect then, at Day One you are meant to
know about veterinary work; at the end of Year One you should be able to bring it all
together to perform to a reasonable level on a day to day basis in the real work place,
and to be able to show that you have done so.
                                       According to the RCVS:
                                       at Year One…“the new graduate will be
The RCVS definition of the level
                                       expected to have had actual experience
expected of you is an important
                                        of applying these competences in the
one – as it talks about you being
                                           work place and should be able to
able to work without close
                                       perform or manage them without close
supervision and that you can
                                        supervision, in a reasonable period of
undertake procedures with a
                                          time, and with a high probability of
“high probability of a successful                successful outcome”.
outcome”. This shows that it’s
accepted that not everyone can get everything right all the time – occasionally things
can go wrong. It also doesn’t mean that you can practice in all areas of veterinary
medicine solo, without ever asking anyone any advice. What you need to be able to
show is that your performance is consistently competent over a period of time, rather
than just having been lucky in an exam (not saying that you were!) Equally, if you’ve
been doing well and progressing over a period of time but then hit a bad patch, this
doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re no longer competent.

What Else a New Grad Should Have Achieved by Year One

While the PDP is important, remember that it is not everything. You also need to
enjoy your job as much as possible. This requires getting on with colleagues and
clients, maintaining interest and finding time to relax and have fun, both in and out of
work. There is no point getting through your PDP just to quit the profession because
you hate it or have a nervous breakdown.

At the same time, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be taking time to speak to
other colleagues, so that you do not forget the whole wide world. Your peers and
other vets can let you know what happens in other practices, in other fields and in
other careers entirely. Keep abreast of veterinary news and politics, so you can see
how you relate to it. Keep in touch with your friends from vet-school. You don’t need
to phone every single one every week, but at least keep in enough contact so that you
wouldn’t be embarrassed to phone them if you had a problem. Join the BVA YVN,
which is beginning its local meetings and has an active discussion-list, and many of
the BVA territorial divisions also have meetings, often on a monthly basis. Try to
make conferences, and see which of your friends are going too. Don’t miss the one-
year reunions run by the VDS and the three-year reunions run by SPVS.

How to do PDP

The nuts-and-bolts of the PDP are not complicated, but it is worth knowing about all
the components before you begin. The PDP record is a web-based tool, in which you
        1) a tally of each time a skill is performed by you
        2) notes - on the various skills and on your general performance. These can
           be notes relevant to your final assessment, but equally they can be notes
           for yourself. Use them reflect on your performance so that you can
           continuously improve and carry on learning.
It is worthwhile not getting overly hung up on either. It is not the end of the world if
you forget to record every single time you do something. Similarly, there is no need to
make long, heartfelt notes (or even any at all) if you don’t want to, but you may find it
a useful habit. The physical act of writing down aids reflection and fixes both the
conclusions and the reflective method of thinking, which in turn encourages the
process of self-directed learning and development.

The PDP Record
In addition to the general guidance contained under the FAQ section on the PDP
website, and the text of the general Year One Competences which you will need to
familiarise yourself with, there are four main sections on your PDP record:

       The Clinical Procedures Checklist (Skills)
       Personal Notes (Diary/Action Plan)
       Skill Notes (notes on particular skill areas)

It is worth looking at each one separately.

Clinical Procedures Checklist (Skills)
This is a list of the clinical procedures that it’s expected a new graduate with about a
year’s experience should be able to undertake competently. You increase the number
next to a skill once you have performed it. Many are specific interventions, such as
blood-taking. If you do it, tally it; it’s easy. But many more are phrased in terms of
“clinical assessment and management of X”. These tend to be more complex areas
where you will not be expected necessarily to have handled the entire case on your
own, but rather to have made the initial assessment and managed the case including
its referral elsewhere if appropriate. How involved you need to be in a procedure
before you tally it is up to you. You may not have had sole responsibility for the case
from diagnosis to cremation, but so long as you were sufficiently involved in the
overall management of the case, and had to make a decision (even if you got it
checked by another vet), then you can tally it. For example, if you take a blood-

glucose measurement and change an insulin dose, then you should count it. But
perhaps one would not tally it for a three-monthly check where the owner says all’s
fine and nothing changes. You can still tally a procedure even if you ultimately got it
wrong. Remember – the tally is a record of your experiences, not just your successes.

Obviously, the name of the game is to get experience in as many of the areas as you
can (and to tally them as you go) – after all, these are things that vets need to be able
to do. However, remember that you should be ticking boxes because you are working
as a vet; you are not working as a vet in order to tally boxes. You may not need to
tally them all, as long as you have a reasonable balance of experience for that general
area for the species with which you are working, and as long as you can justifiably
say you are generally competent. You may be competent in the management of
various medical conditions, but not have experienced all, but decision-making and
diagnostic skills in one condition can be applied to others. Similarly, if you work in
mixed practice, it may be that your experience with some procedures in one species is
transferable to other species – you may have high case numbers in one column, and
low numbers in others (it is perfectly possible that some cases just do not “come
through the door”), but overall it would be reasonable to say you’re competent in that
area. If you’re in doubt, you can always email the RCVS postgraduate dean who will
have been allocated to you at the outset, and they will advise you on the balance you
should be aiming for.

Some competences will be gained straight away and you will soon have done plenty
of them. Tally them until you feel completely confident, but you do not need to check,
say, blood-sampling off every time you do it, until you reach 999 times. Once you feel
you are competent just make a note in the notes section to say that you feel so. There
may be some areas that you covered extensively at university, perhaps whilst on EMS
or during an elective                                           programme, which you
may be able to sign off       It is sensible to update the      quickly. If so, make a
note to this effect in the    record at least every three       skill area notes, then
move on to concentrate                  months.                 on the others. A few
procedures you may                                              never tick. If you are
working in small animal practice, then you may never do a vasectomy (unless you
have a local ferret breeder). You may even be lucky enough never to tally “castration
with complications”. You may well find that after an initial frenzy of ticking, it slows
down, since you aren’t bothering to tally urine analysis any more and caesareans
aren’t everyday. It is sensible to come up with a list of competences that you would
like to have achieved, and have a realistic chance of doing so, within a reasonable
time-frame. Allow some scope for flexibility. If you let your colleagues know what’s
on your list and they may help, e.g. dealing out ops from the day’s list.

It is useful to get into a routine. You may find it easy to print off the pages of skills
and keep it handy, so that you can mark each off by pen and update your webpage
every so often. Whether you complete your on-line records at the end of each day or
week, or whether you leave it longer is up to you. But you should aim to update the
record at least every 3 months (this is the RCVS’s recommendation, so is doubly
worth following – and it is only four times a year so hardly arduous). More frequent
completion will be more advantageous and encourage even more improvement.

Once you have entered many tallies, you can see your numbers as a bar-chart, broken
down into areas and work-type. You can then compare this to the average (note this is
not the median, so if a lot of people don’t bother, then it will be lower than the actual
norm) of your peers, grouped on time since qualification.

Clearly this graph facility can be both useful and/or hazardous to a point. Try not to
get too hung up on keeping up with the Joneses. Different people progress at different
speeds, in different areas. And different people are in different circumstances: it
depends on your job and also just what comes through the door. But if you are far
behind your peers across the board, then you need to think about yourself or your job.

It is a personal thing and people progress at different speeds, in different areas.
This is partly because vets are different and jobs are different but is also a bit down to
luck – it depends what comes through the door. Year One Competences are rather
unfortunately named, since implying that they should have been gained by one year
obviously risks you either slackening off if progressing well or – more likely –
becoming stressed or disheartened about the ones you will not/have not attained. So
do not get hung up on the name. Try to think of it as ‘Moving On Competences’ or
‘Generating Confidence Competences”.

Some people will complete their PDP in less than a year; others may take longer. If
you’re aiming to sign yourself off as competent in more than one species, or in
“Mixed Practice”, for example, this will probably take more than a year.

Within the PDP website, you can make notes on both specific incidents and cases, as
well as more general concerns and ambitions
There are
        a) A personal diary/planner
        b) Space for notes on specific areas

Remember that these notes are first and foremost for your own benefit. You should
not be writing them for the RCVS, or your boss, or your distant-future self, or your
peers, or some imaginary vet looking over your shoulder. They are just to remind you
of cases and help you learn by your experiences.

The personal diary and action plan notes area (see below) are confidential to you.
Nobody at the RCVS can access this and it won’t be monitored. If you chose to make
it available to others, or print it out to discuss it with your boss, that’s up to you.
However, the notes attached to specific skill areas will be viewable by the PDP
Administrator at RCVS and by your allocated RCVS postgraduate dean – but this
shouldn’t inhibit you from using it.

There are a number of different sections and you can use all or none. These are:

Your Strengths & Achievements
This is meant to be to record where you feel you have made “significant progress in
developing your professional competences and clinical skills”. This feels a bit weird
to write and the humbler vet might find it difficult at first to know what to write here.
But don’t underestimate your achievements. It is good practice to stop and think
about why something went well as this is how you will learn for the future. You
could record specifics of what you did in successful cases. For example what suture
material/pattern you used; what tactics you used to get the owner to stop talking while
you’re listening with a stethoscope etc.

Areas on Which You Need to Concentrate
This is meant to be areas where you want to develop. It may be nice to watch this list
shorten, and to remind yourself in a year what you were like when you started.

Incident Analysis
This can be used to make notes about errors and what you have learnt. These are not
accessed by the RCVS. It is also questionable whether they would be admissible in
court. It might, nonetheless, be sensible not to make any explicit mentions to named
cases, nor to admit negligence! Since it is hard and disheartening to write about one’s
errors until one is fully confident in one’s general ability, and able to discuss them
without attaching any sense of failure or blame to oneself, it may be better to begin
writing about your successes and why they went well. Additionally, this section can
be used to record cases where you have demonstrated the non-clinical competences.

Action Plan
                                                        The skills-notes can be
This space can be very useful to list the skills on
                                                         viewed by the RCSV.
which you want to concentrate next
                                                        The personal diary and
Continuing Professional Development
                                                     action plan are confidential.
Since your RCVS CPD Record Card will
summarise any external courses you attend, or
other CPD you do, there is no point repeating it here. Instead, you could use this area
to summarise the key points you learnt. Even after years of cramming at university,
you will be amazed how much has slipped out of your head a week after attending a
PDP counts as the CPD for the first year of the new grad, is you should be getting all
the CPD you need in the practice (new grads should remember this when negotiating
wages). That said, it may be necessary to attend external courses, and the PDP should
help highlight where external education is needed or desirable.

Here you can record specific notes about competences. For example, you can record
that you are no longer ticking them, as you feel competent. These are not confidential,
but can be viewed by the RCVS, so may be relevant when confirming your
competence when you submit your declaration (see next section).
You can also use this area to make notes on particular procedures, e.g. tips for
yourself on catheterising – do not underestimate how much of these you will have
forgotten if the next one you do is six months later.

The Declaration
According to the RCVS: ‘Completion of the PDP is not a matter of passing or failing
a final assessment.’ You do have to pass a final assessment, but it is inappropriate to
think of not passing as failing – you merely do not move on. Think of it as “passing”
in the sense of passing Go, rather than the sense of passing a test. Indeed, it is worth
generally thinking of it as a positive, rather than negative, addition to your early
practice – it should be regarded as a tool rather than a test.

When deciding whether you are ready to declare yourself as “Year One Competent”,
you should first refer to the general Year One Competences which are shown in the
website and ask yourself if you can genuinely claim to meet all these professional
expectations. Then check through your completed list of skills and check that your
experience supports your claim. Print out the Declaration form from the website, and
decide whether you are claiming Year One Competence in Small Animal Practice,
Farm Animal Practice, Equine Practice, or any combination of these. If you are
claiming competence in Mixed Practice, you will need to specify the species, and be
sure that your skill tallies support your claim.

   The RCVS Post-Graduate            Ask your mentor or a senior colleague in the
     Deans will periodically         practice (they must be MRCVS) to go through
    review the records of the        the lists with you and ask if they agree that you
     new grads allocated to          are competent. They counter sign your
  them. They may also get in         declaration. Note that they are not asked to sign
   touch occasionally to see         that they think you are competent – this is a
      how things are going.          judgement for you. They are asked to confirm
                                     that they have discussed your performance with
you and that they have seen your records. Obviously, if you have a major difference
of opinion, then you may need to rethink your own assessment, but if you have been
having regular discussions with your mentor or senior colleagues, then the final
signing off should hopefully be positive! Then you post the signed declaration to the
RCVS PDP Administrator who will let the postgraduate dean know that you are ready
to claim Year One Competence. Your PDP record will be reviewed on-line by your
allocated RCVS postgraduate dean, who will get in touch with you if they think there
are any major gaps that still need to be filled. If all is well, you will receive a
Certificate of Completion from RCVS. It is not known how strict they will be.

It is you who decide. This is your call – and your ability to make the judgement is
itself part of the Year One Competences (“develop a capacity for self-audit and
willingness to participate in the peer review process”). Your mentor signs the
declaration (and the RCVS validate it), but your mentor is NOT saying that they think
you are Year-One Competent, merely that they have seen the list of skills-tallies and
(in the case of your mentor) “that there has been a discussion about your
performance”. The process is there to encourage ongoing appraisal of your
performance within the practice – so there should be no surprises at the end of the
process. And if you have evidence of your experience through your skills lists, which
could if required be audited back through practice records, there should be no

Deciding whether you are competent is a worrying task: it is a responsibility to decide
whether you can take responsibilities! You need not have done every skill, but need to
feel to have achieved the appropriate level of competence. The RCVS have given
guidance about what competence is, but beyond that it is, to some extent, your own
interpretation. The criteria the RCVS offers (and remember, PDP is a RCVS process,
so it is their call) include being able to perform procedures
                  without close supervision
                  in a reasonable time frame (presumably compared to other vets, rather
                  than other new grads)
                  with a high probability of success

This is not to say that every time you carry something out, the animal will enjoy a
perfect cure. The RCVS claim you should have a “high probability of a successful
outcome”, but, given that many interventions never have “a high probability of a
successful outcome”, this must be understood with a bit of common-sense. The
definition of “success” will differ – you may, for example, need to euthanase a
beloved pet, but this may be the best outcome in the circumstances, particularly if you
dealt with the clients in such a way that they were able to accept the inevitable. You
should have “a high probability of a successful outcome” at blood-taking, but do not
expect to cure all Developmental (Congenital) Neurological Conditions, reduce
Seizures to never and save every Caesarean puppy and Critical Care patient.

Nor is it to say that you need to be able to perform something without fear: it is
commonly said that you are not comfortable with bitch-spays ’til three years-in.

You can ask others their opinion, and obviously your mentor’s opinion is vital.
However, colleagues will not be keen to tell you are incompetent. Less directly, you
can try to assess if your colleagues are happy letting you do stuff and see how much
supervision they give you, but clearly colleagues who are “case-greedy” or apathetic
will differ enormously in how much they let you do.

When deciding whether you are competent at something, imagine that the box is
viewed by your employer (or an imaginary future employer). Tally those that you
would be happy to be left alone to do. If you cheat or overconfidently tally something
and then make a mistake, you could end up either looking silly when you have to ask
for help after all or, even worse, messing up because you have been left unsupported
on the grounds that you are believed to be competent.

Meetings between New Grads and Mentors

As a young vet, it is hard to “demand” time of your boss: on top of asking him to
check on your x-rays and watch you bitch-spay, it seems uncomfortable to ask him to
check your tick-boxes. Nevertheless, this needs to be done. Setting aside time to go
through the PDP is probably the best way to make sure it gets the attention it needs.
Leaving meetings to chance will probably mean never having them – it is almost
impossible to get times when you are both free. With insufficient organisation, you
may well end-up having to have meetings in evenings and frequent shorter meetings
will both be easier to schedule than occasional long ones – and shorter meetings will
make sure you are both more up-to-date and motivated throughout the meeting.
Furthermore, by setting aside time, you both show commitment and respect for how
important your development is to you both.
If you both try to make it as valuable and interesting for each other then you both will
be more likely to give more time and effort. So try to say what is going well and what
would improve the business and make their life easier, as well as what would help
you. More advice of communication with one’s senior vets is available from SPVS
(e.g. the “Boss-talk” document, available to members form the website or office).
It is important to make the meetings as efficient and stress-free as possible. So try to
have your documentation and webpage organised and up-to-date. Seek a mutually
agreeable time for the meeting – don’t try to spring one on your boss or senior
colleague at a moment’s notice. Try not to bring in other issues if time is short, as you
will end up discussing other areas and not the PDP. Additionally, the mentoring
relationship is completely different to the boss/employee relationship and needs to be
handled completely differently. For financial and contractual matters, it is worth
having other meetings – with a different atmosphere – to resolve problems. PDP is
not there to help you solve employment-related matters.
If you find your boss unhelpful, there a number of things that may be the case.
Employers often assume that everything is fine if you don’t say anything, so firstly
just ask at a suitable time. If the bosses are still too busy, try to cut down on what you
are asking from them. If he or she still won’t help, try talking to the SPVS new grad
officer or the RCVS postgraduate dean, who is used to dealing with this sort of
problem and can advise about your situation in more detail. – As a general rule, it is
worth dealing with this earlier rather than later.
It is less likely that you will find your new grad lazy and apathetic about the PDP. If
so, there may be other reasons. They may simply lack the organisational skills or self-
discipline, so you may need to help find a way for them to maintain their records.
With a very apathetic new grad, it may be worth a meeting to ascertain why they are
so – it may be due to problems in or out of work, or may suggest a dissatisfaction with
the profession – problems that you may well be in a position to palliate.
More advice can be gained from SPVS or the Veterinary Christian Fellowship
(, and a useful resource is Hawn (1997) ‘Mentoring New Graduates in
Your Practice’ Trends Magazine Aug/Sept: 7-13.

Advice for Employers

Do not dismiss the PDP. If anything, be slightly jealous. The fact that we got by
without it is firstly because, we were in a different environment of less government
interference, more respect for the professions, less technical and business demands
and less litigious clients, as well as less of an ethos of helping and support; secondly,
the fact we did not need it is not true, we just got by and learnt as much through trial
and error as through education. Certainly, the new grad must do it, so there is no point
complaining: far better to get on with it and make the most of it.

In fact, even ignoring the benefit to the new grads, the PDP, if used well, can provide
benefits to more switched-on employers. It is impossible to overestimate the value of
appraisals. Done well, they can be extremely useful for all concerned, not only
regarding the PDP. They can help consolidate learning and experience, maintain
motivation, provide base-lines and targets for personal, clinical and performance-
related objectives, promote team-working and positive forward thinking. They can
boost profitability and staff retention longevity. They also iron out any teething issues
early on. If a practice has not done these before, there are sources of advice, not least
SPVS and the CIPD website.                                                                  Comment [JWY2]: JWY6
                                                                                            If anyone can expand on this, it
It helps structure their development because it shows what they need to be given            may be useful. thanks
opportunity to experience and practice. The biggest demand is time, of which you
have limited amounts. But there are benefits to being the mentor, rather than leaving it
to a senior colleague. You should try to spend a few minutes each week with your
new grad anyway, and the PDP can give you a focus for discussion. If both you and
the new grad look for gaps, then you will make sure they are covering all bases. It
also helps know how much assistance they need to gain and keep their confidence.
Every new grad is different. Some gain confidence from knowing they are being
watched in their seventy-seventh cat spay; others gain confidence from you showing
confidence that they will do a good job, i.e. not watching them. Note that is a divide
between how to give confidence: not a divide in how much you can let them do while
you go for lunch. If you have as your over-riding thinking that you are doing what’s
best for their development, then, given a little empathy, you won’t go wrong.
Confidence requires successful handling of challenges – i.e. no number of cat
castrates will give them confidence in anything other than cat castrates, though it may
improve technical skills, such as handling abilities.

It is useful for management purposes because it lets you know what procedures they
can be left to do without close supervision. It should also tell you what you will need
to help them with. Many of the procedures where they will need supervision will be
ones that are likely to occur when you aren’t there, so provide clear protocols for such
situations, not least ooh emergencies. At the very least, the new grad’s PDP record
will provide a useful guide to what they have and haven’t done. This is useful both to
structure their development and for your management of their performance.

However, other matters, such as those covered in the Matching Expectations SPVS
document, may be better discussed in separate meetings.

Another benefit is that the PDP counts as CPD. This saves money but means that you
are in charge of it. With most graduates, you will not need to do much, but for others
who are more coy, lazier or slower it may be necessary to structure and control their
development. Plus those graduates who do not need it may well benefit from such a
structure. More advice can be gained from P. manning (1998) ‘CPD in general
veterinary practice: “A program of learning real practical skills”’ Bulletin July: 4,
available from the SPVS office.


Below is a list of questions that are not explicitly answered above. It is not an
exhaustive list. There is a list of useful F.A.Q.s o the RCVS website. The RCVS
Deans can be contacted via email or from a link on the website, and they can be
contacted for clarification or advice on how to interpret some of the statements or
complete one’s PDP. If you have any other questions, you can ask SPVS or the RCVS
at the addresses below.

Will the PDP change new grads’ status?
In the short term, it will probably not cause much change, since the public don’t know
about it. As or if the public come to know more, they may start asking young-looking
vets whether they have finished their PDP. Of course you cannot lie.
It should not lead to a decrease in new grads’ wages because it is about what should
have been happening anyway. It may well be that it was not happening anyway, and
those bosses who are having to change their approach may think to decrease wages. If
this is the case, be very careful of such bosses who claim it – they may well be those
who previously were unsupportive of new grads.

There is the vastly important question of what new grads should be performing
without supervision (and probably will generally still be expected to). One of the
RCVS’s original ideas was that new grads should have a provisional licence to
practice, on the model of doctors. That won’t legally be possible without a change to
the Veterinary Surgeons Act. Nevertheless, the existence of the PDP is an
acknowledgement that holding a degree does not of itself make a new grad fully
professionally competent at all procedures across all species at Day One in practice.
This has always been the case, but PDP finally makes it explicit. It acknowledges that
full professional competence continues to develop over time – and even continues
long after PDP has been completed. So legally, you can do anything that any vet can
do – diagnose disease, surgically enter body-cavities and sign certificates. What
remains to be seen is whether under civil law, such as for negligence, and RCVS
disciplinary proceedings, whether the Year One Competences and the PDP list will be
taken as evidence of what a new grad should have – and should not have – been
doing. This provides another incentive for bosses to support new grads, but that may
not help those whose bosses don’t care about their staff.
It is probably sensible to take a similar line to those who graduated in previous years,
but with a little more caution. Undertake procedures where you stand a reasonable
chance of achieving a successful outcome. If it’s your first time and there’s no-one
around to help you, make sure you follow the practice protocols. Those where you
are not sure, only undertake when there is a more experienced vet available (at least
on the end of a phone if not present in person). Those for which you would not expect
a reasonable chance of success, do not undertake, unless circumstances give you no
choice. (And perhaps keep a confidential note of the circumstances if this happens!)

What Practice? Are all practices “PDP Practices”?
Practices do not have to do PDP. Those that are RCVS accredited, however, should be
doing the necessary audit and providing a CPD support structure for all their staff.
And as undertaking PDP conscientiously counts as CPD for a new graduate, by
implication, they should support any new graduate they employ through PDP. In
unaccredited practices you can still ask your seniors for informal appraisals, or at least
to sign the declaration at the end of the PDP. If they won’t even do this, contact your
RCVS Postgraduate Dean for advice (such employers should note that they may be in
breach of the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct if they fail to provide adequate
support). Probably few practices will refuse to do PDP with you as it is a fairly
minimal commitment for them. If they do refuse, then they are definitely not suitable
first-job employers.
The practice that will be best for your PDP is the same one that is best for new grads
generally: those with organised, enthusiastic support from senior vets, a sensible case-
load and fair division of labour. Clearly sole-charge jobs are not really suitable. See
the SPVS document ‘Your first Job- What to look for and avoiding the pitfalls’ for
more information.

Will your record affect your future employment?
Perhaps employers will ask to see them, though you do not have to show them.
Nevertheless, it is another reason to fill them in honestly – just as in your CV and
interview, it is more sensible to be realistic than to illegitimately over-sell yourself
into an unsuitable job (however tempting it may seem).
Avoid the temptation to rate yourself as more competent in areas you wish to proceed,
e.g. rating your surgical skills higher if you want to specialise. But equally, don’t
undervalue your experience. Some new graduates sell themselves short by
underestimating their strengths.

What if another new grad or a nurse also needs to practice the same
You relationship with your colleagues is more important than the speed at which you
do the PDP. There is no deadline for completing PDP. The best plan is to coordinate
your efforts – try to be aiming for different areas, so that you do not compete.
Alternatively (and if your colleague is being selfish), suggest a formal system to
ensure fairness: for example, that you keep a check on each other’s records, so that
you can try to equilibrate your tallies.

What do I do if I change my job?
Changing practice is no problem; you can even keep your PDP records up to date
Changing type of work will possibly mean that you have no skills ticked in the new
area, so it is effectively like starting again.
Going part-time just means that it will probably take longer to complete.


Here are some thoughts of some of those who have been involved in the PDP pilots.
These are comments of individuals who may not always be representative, but do
express real positions held by people.

Thoughts of New Grads who took part in PDP-pilots
‘I think this scheme is a great idea. It is an absolute minefield knowing what job to
choose and knowing what to expect when you accept and start your first job.
Previously you only had goodwill and your potential employer’s word in interview
that you would not be thrown in at the deep end but it was purely luck of the draw as
to whether what you were promised was consistent with what actually transpires.’

‘What this scheme does is give both parties an idea of what to expect, new grads can
be assured that in signing-in for the scheme they are essentially committing to
continuing professional training in practice and gives new graduates a structured
way in which to work through and achieve new skill sets, but also gives them an idea
of what would be expected of them at different stages of their career.’

Thoughts of New Grads who didn’t take part in pilots
‘For those who are confident enough, the PDP would have been less useful than for
those who need more structure. I think most vets cope fine and most jobs are fine
without PDP. Not perfect but not bad either. The PDP is for those vets who are not
competent enough or whose jobs are not so fine. Some of these may not be able to
cope even with it. But for some hopefully it will help them until they get a better job
and it may even help them gain confidence.’

‘I wish we had had something like this. I felt completely unprepared by university and
managed to survive day to day always feeling on the brink of crisis. I had no idea how
well I was doing or how badly and feared that it was badly. I am quite envious of the
younger years who will have this support’

Thoughts of Employers
‘Mentoring…fledgling new graduates can be rewarding, seeing their competence,
confidence and performance grow…they can become useful members of the practice
team relatively quickly. This is important because if the graduates do not feel part of a
team, they cannot so easily develop, and they and the practice lose out on

‘The PDP has not been communicated to employers…well. It will be up to the
employees to ensure that they go through it as they should be.’

Thoughts of SPVS
‘It remains to be seen how well the PDP will work. It has every potential to be of
fantastic benefit to new grads and employers. Whether or not this is so for all new
grads and employers, it certainly can be true for those who make sure it is.’

‘The PDP does contain a number of elements of good practice that SPVS has
promoted since its inception, and encouraging the less enlightened employers can be
a benefit to their employees. But it is important for both employers and employees to
remember that the PDP covers only one small aspect of new-grads’ development.’

‘It will probably be well worth negotiating and formalising support “packages” as
part of your contract. A clear development plan affords the relationship the
importance it deserves.’

Thoughts of RCVS
‘Working on the PDP will help plant the seeds for good habits in terms of record-
keeping and reflection. It should give new graduates the confidence to carry out those
tasks required of them completely.’

Useful Resources & Contacts

RCVS Library
PDP participants receive 50% discount on library membership and on membership
related services - which provides access to a wealth of information resources,
including on line access to journals. Contact them at:
       Telephone: 020 7222 2021; Fax: 020 7202 0751
       You can view the website at

The Society of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons are probably your first port of call.
They have a great range of experience with dealing with new grads and are very
useful. SPVS ‘Matching Expectations’ ‘Boss-talk’ and ‘Your first Job- What to look
for and avoiding the pitfalls’ are available from the office. They can be contacted at

The BVA are keen about providing more support for new grads than they have done.
The YVN can be contacted at:

There are two PDP postgraduate deans and a PDP administrator at the RCVS. The
postgraduate deans are experienced veterinary surgeons who can access your record
for RCVS purposes and will be involved in signing you off (they may also contact
you in the interim to see how things are going). You can contact them to ask for
guidance on completing your records. New graduates can contact their postgraduate
dean direct from a link in their PDP website record. They can also be contacted at
       Email:, via the website or Telephone: 020 7202 0778
This is an independent, not-for-profit website where you can read and post general
tips for new grads. It is useful for panics and rushes, where you just need a simple
how-to (you can read the complicated textbooks later). There is a section with tips for
each of the PDP clinical skills, as well as for other areas.

Further Reading
Johnson, B. & F. Andrews (2007) ‘PDP: From pilot to practice’ In Practice 29: 166-9
Lockett, L. (2007) ‘Are you ready to put Professional Development Phase into
practice?’ Veterinary Times 37(21): 28-9
Riggs, E.A., J.E. Routly, I.R. Taylor & H. Dobson (2001) ‘Support needs of
veterinary surgeons in the first few years of practice: a survey of recent and
experienced graduates’ Veterinary Record 149: 743-5
Hubbard, J. (2007) ‘PDP: a practice perspective’ In Practice 29: 414-5

And Finally,…

It remains only to say good luck, have fun and don’t stress.

Remember that there are people who can help if you need
advice or more. Some are outside your practice, such as SPVS
and the VBF. But many are in your practice too.

                                                   S.P.V.S., 2007


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