The results of a survey conducted by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) with recent graduates of UK veterinary schools has found that the vast majority find extra-mural studies (EMS) to be an essential component of the veterinary degree.
 
The survey was launched earlier this year in order to help the RCVS build up a picture of how EMS placements are currently working and whether graduates felt that they had gained knowledge and experience from placements that they could not have learnt from their core studies. Some 287 veterinary graduates from 2012 and 2013 participated in the survey, the overwhelming majority of whom (95.6%) agreed that EMS was essential.
 
Furthermore, the majority of the recent graduates said that they had found EMS placements to be beneficial in terms of the variety of clinical skills, professional skills and working practices they encountered. The only area in which a large number of graduates (42.9%) said that they did not find EMS placements useful was in gaining experience of out-of-hours and weekend work.
 
Despite the overall positive results, however, a number of concerns about EMS were raised. Issues included variable quality of placements; significant numbers of respondents feeling they were not able to gain as much 'hands-on' experience from placements as they would like; costs of accommodation and travel; and a lack of farm/mixed animal practices for placements.
 
Other key findings included the fact that the vast majority of veterinary students identified and booked their own placements at EMS practices and that their placements were at the type of practice they were looking for.
 
Christine Warman, RCVS Head of Education, commented on the results:

"We launched this survey as an information-gathering exercise to see how EMS placements are currently working, following our last review of EMS in 2009 - and the results have certainly been very interesting.
 
"What is clear is that the current system is working well and that there is no need for an immediate review or urgent action. Most graduates found the experience gained on placements useful for their studies and find that EMS sets them up well for their first job in practice.
 
"However, there are a number of issues that we will keep a watching brief over and we plan to repeat the survey every two years in order to monitor these."
 
The full results of the survey are available to view at www.rcvs.org.uk/emssurvey2014. Detailed guidance on EMS placements for students, university staff and EMS practices is also available at www.rcvs.org.uk/ems.