Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Education and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

The transition into veterinary practice: Opinions of recent graduates and final year students

Susan M Rhind1*, Sarah Baillie2, Tierney Kinnison2, Darren J Shaw1, Catriona E Bell1, Richard J Mellanby1, Jenny Hammond3, Neil PH Hudson1, Rachel E Whittington1 and Ruth Donnelly4

Author Affiliations

1 Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian, UK

2 Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK

3 University of Glasgow, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, 464 Bearsden Road, Glasgow, UK

4 University of Edinburgh Careers Service, 33 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:64  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-64

Published: 22 September 2011



The transition from veterinary student to member of the veterinary profession is known to be challenging. This study aimed to determine and compare the opinions of final year veterinary students and recent graduates on graduate attributes that ease this transition.


The study was carried out across 3 veterinary schools in the United Kingdom. Paper based or electronic surveys were used. Final year students in the 3 schools were surveyed either electronically (school A) or on paper (schools B and C). Student cohort sizes were 112, 227 and 102 respectively. Recent graduates were contacted either at a reunion event (school A) or electronically from database records (school B and school C). Cohort sizes of contacted graduates were 80, 175 and 91 respectively. Respondents were asked to rate 42 individual attributes on a 5 point Likert scale. Focus groups with final year students and recent graduates and telephone interviews with recent graduates were carried out. Data were analysed by two researchers through a combination of manual coding and thematic analysis. Data were grouped into broad themes then sorted into narrower themes. Data were then searched for counter examples.


Response rates for final year students were 34% (school A), 36% (school B) and 40% (school C). Response rates for recent graduates were 56% (school A), 20% (school B) and 11% (school C). There was a high level of agreement between the cohorts with respect to communication skills, problem solving and decision making skills, recognition of own limitations and the ability to cope with pressure all rated unanimously important or very important. Business acumen, knowledge of veterinary practice management and research skills were the 3 attributes ranked at the bottom of the list. Nine attributes were identified with a significantly different (p < 0.05) ranking between the cohorts. Final year students ranked veterinary clinical knowledge, knowledge of veterinary public health and zoonotic issues, veterinary legislation and veterinary practice management, commitment to continuing professional development and ability to evaluate information higher than recent graduates. Recent graduates ranked the attributes of integrity, friendliness and compassion higher than final year students.


Recent graduates and final year students rate highly the attributes which help foster the client/veterinarian relationship. Recent graduates reflect that a focus on knowledge based attributes is less important once in practice when compared to final year. The study confirms the importance to recent graduates and final year students of attributes considered as non-technical in the transition to working in the veterinary profession.