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Unit information: Professional Studies 4 in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Professional Studies 4
Unit code VETS36000
Credit points 0
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Slingsby
Open unit status Not open

Completion of BVSc 3


All other units in BVSc 4

School/department Bristol Veterinary School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit is vertically integrated with Professional Studies units in years 1, 2, 3 and 5 and allows continuing development of an understanding of the complex issues and responsibilities associated with being a veterinary professional.

Communication skills - Teaching allows development of effective communication skills in the context of challenging situations where issues such as grief and anger are likely. The concept and practicalities of shared decision making within the clinical team and with clients are also explored.

Professional conduct ethics and law - The RCVS code of professional conduct and specific aspects of veterinary jurisprudence are explored and applied to a range of situations. The specific challenges of becoming a veterinary professional and an awareness of the skills required for the transition to veterinary practice are debated.

Business management - Business models applicable to UK veterinary practice and fundamental business principles such as price setting and profitability are further explored. The requirements of the RCVS practice standards scheme and issues of clinical governance and audit and employment law are discussed.


  • To develop students' understanding of the nature of the relationship owners have with animals and how this affects communication in more challenging situations such as euthanasia and loss
  • To develop effective communication skills for challenging situations, such as when owners are angry, distressed, grieving or in conflict
  • To develop students' understanding of how collective decisions are made and develop the skills appropriate to this
  • To develop knowledge and understanding of the legal requirements attached to veterinary work and the guidelines of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
  • To develop students' understanding of the skills and practicalities associated with the transition to professional life
  • To develop basic knowledge and understanding of common veterinary business practice, the requirements of the RCVS practice standards scheme, the concepts of clinical governance and audit and employment law.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Communication skills. Students should be able to:

  • Describe the range of attachment people have for animals they care for and discuss the influence that these may have on effective communication with owners or carers of animals
  • Describe models of grief and apply these to clinical situations
  • Identify the role of shared decision making and negotiation in the veterinary consultation and the skills required to communicate effectively in this context
  • Identify their own and peers communication skills in dealing with a range of challenging situations such as when clients are angry, distressed, grieving or in conflict

Professional conduct, ethics and law. Students should be able to:

  • Identify the skills they require to manage the transition to practice post-graduation
  • Describe the skills required for professional and ethical negotiation with clients and within the practice team
  • Identify how to act ethically and professionally within the law and the RCVS guidelines as described in the RCVS code of Professional Conduct
  • Reflect on generic situations requiring ethical and professional consideration of the type observed on EMS placements, and discuss these with tutors
  • Reflect on their personal conduct in the light of the RCVS requirements for pre and post graduation

Business Management. Students should be able to:

  • Describe the different business models of veterinary practice ownership
  • Critically discuss the factors that must be considered when setting fees for goods and services
  • Explain and interpret financial statements
  • Define the term ‘profitability’ and calculate profitability ratios
  • Describe employee and employer rights and duties as outlined in employment legislation
  • Describe what provisions and systems practices need to have in place in order to satisfy the requirements of the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme

Study Learning and Investigation. Students should be able to:

  • Reflect effectively on their approach to clinical working conditions and on how they respond to difficult situations

Teaching Information

Lectures, seminars, debate, practicals, computer-assisted-learning, reflective journal

Assessment Information

  • 40 minute multiple choice type question exam - 70%
  • Business Studies course work - 30%
  • Practical assessment of communication skills - pass/fail
  • ePortfolio reflective journal entry – pass/fail
  • ePortfolio reflective journal entry on ethics and professional conduct - pass fail

Reading and References

  • Gray and Moffett (2010) ‘Handbook of Veterinary Communication Skills’, Wiley-Blackwell
  • Maggie and Stutchfield (2008) Veterinary Practice Management: A Practical Guide 2nd Ed. , Saunders-Elsevier
  • Moreau and Nap (2010), Essentials of Veterinary Practice: An Introduction to the Science of Practice Management, Henston
  • Rollin (2006), An Introduction to Veterinary Medical Ethics: Theory and Cases, 2nd Ed, Wiley-Blackwell
  • RCVS (2013) The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons