Supporting new graduates: From practicals to veterinary practice

Dr Christine McGuiness,
University of Adelaide 2016 graduate
and Whitney

As some of us head toward the end of the year in anticipation of holidays and festive gatherings, approximately 500 of our fellow members are getting ready for their very first job.

Through our wonderful mentors, who are key to the success of our graduate mentoring program, we have assisted hundreds of final year students to navigate their transition into practice.

The volunteer mentors offer guidance, encouragement and other support tools to help our next generation of veterinarians flourish in their chosen fields.

As a profession, we are all responsible for the success of new graduates and only by working together can we achieve this. At a recent ASAV graduate dinner, one of our members, Dr Caitlin Horwood-Skelton articulated this beautifully: “If you have made a mistake in a procedure, it’s not just your mistake, it’s my mistake too. It’s our job, all of us in this profession, to make sure you get through this, so that you don’t shoulder the burden alone”.

The AVA has developed several career guidance resources to assist both graduates and those about to become their employers:

  • The AVA HR Advisory service helps members solve employment issues. This includes providing template documents for contracts, job descriptions and performance reviews, and providing overall support through every stage of the employment lifecycle
  • Our New Graduate webpages have information about salary negotiations and tips on how to look after yourself in this exciting new phase
  • One of the AVA’s focus areas is to ensure that the veterinary workforce is adequately resourced with the right skills to provide for the future of veterinary services across the country. We are committed to ensuring that new graduates are supported as they join the profession.

Employers are also part of this journey and the AVA has developed the Employment of New Veterinary Graduates policy to guide employers transitioning new graduates into veterinary practice.

Newly graduated veterinary professionals have completed years of study but they have limited professional and practical experience. As Ofir Schwarzmann, who completed studies in 2016 notes, the first working day in a practice may be less than ideal.

“My first job entailed working in a vet clinic where I was in sole charge for about 90% of my shifts. As you can imagine, this makes for a very stressful first job,” said Ofir.

It is in the interests of all involved that new graduates are not expected to deal with cases that are beyond their experience, otherwise the implications may affect the client, patient, employer and ultimately the employee. Fortunately for Ofir, he was able to find a position in a different clinic where "It’s been amazing to have the much-needed support as a new graduate. While there are still stressful periods, there is always someone around to help".
Given that a first job is highly formative, it is important for all practices to embrace and enact the policy and to direct new graduates to familiarise themselves with the framework. The policy outlines the type of support that should be provided to new graduates; it also provides guidance on working hours and induction programs.

For new graduates, what is expected from them and the responsibilities that go beyond simply the job description is often unfamiliar territory, particularly if it’s their first job. The Employment of New Veterinary Graduates policy assists with providing this direction.

Ultimately, we won’t just be helping new graduates to become more resilient, we will be helping each other to thrive within the profession.

View the Employment of New Veterinary Graduates policy and adopt it in your veterinary practice.

Monika Cole
AVA Recent Graduate and Student Program Manager

This article appeared in the December 2017 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal

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