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A practitioner ponders

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I look forward to the day when I can tell my grandchildren that I was present at a moment of veterinary history in the making: the very first graduation from Nottingham Veterinary School on July 22 this year. My offspring will doubtless sit spellbound as I recount the significance of that day in the annals of veterinary history and the juxtaposition of so many anniversaries of veterinary significance. On the very same date 25 years previously, the justifiably proud first dean of the Nottingham school had himself graduated from the Royal Veterinary College. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Cambridge Veterinary School and, as if two such prestigious anniversaries are not enough, 2011 marks the 250th anniversary of the opening of the very first European veterinary school in Lyon.

Many in the profession have watched the development of the new veterinary school with great interest. A radically different approach was taken in devising the curriculum, which involved working retrospectively from the desired end point of sending a new graduate out into the world of work with their Day 1 competencies firmly in place. It has taken a mere decade from conception of the idea to its fulfilment in this very first graduation; not a bad achievement in itself.

I took up an invitation to attend this illustrious event soon after having completed a day of interviews for a post within the practice. Needless to say, the magic words ‘new graduate’ in the advert had unleashed an avalanche of CVs and many hours were spent sifting through them. Interviewing for prospective practice colleagues is one of the skills that does not appear in the veterinary curriculum and yet is a significant event for both parties.

While the practice wishes to find a veterinary surgeon who will perform well in a milieu very different from that in which they have spent the past five years, the new graduate is looking for a place that will meet their expectations, whatever those expectations might be. These vary greatly, and veterinary practices are as different from each other as are the individuals looking for work. It's a difficult circle to square.

Academic success during undergraduate studies is not necessarily a foretaste of a successful veterinary career; this is certainly the case with first-opinion practice. The womb of the university is a very different environment to the neonatal existence in practice. Some new graduates will find themselves in the wrong job and some in the wrong career, but most of them will be fine.

As I sat in the packed hall in Nottingham, trying to recall any detail of my own graduation, I certainly remembered my excitement at graduating and all that it offered. I hope those Nottingham students felt as I had, some three decades earlier.

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