Blog #1 2021 – by Linda Prescott-Clements (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, UK)

My reasons to become an EBMA board member.

Hello! My name is Linda Prescott-Clements and I’m a new Board member for the EBMA. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself, and tell you a little more about my reasons for joining the EBMA Board.

Although I started my working life 25 years ago as a Clinical Virologist, I soon became interested in Health Professions Education and followed this path. One of my first roles involved the development of workplace-based assessments for postgraduate dental trainees, and upon reading the literature in this area a lifelong interest was ignited! At this time, the focus with regard to performance (competence) assessment was very much on trying to reach the top of Miller’s pyramid, and many studies focused heavily on the reliability of high stakes assessment, with a coefficient of 0.8 sometimes appearing to be the holy grail.

Of course reliability of assessment is important, particularly when it is to inform high stakes decisions. However, I believe the movement towards more valid, authentic assessment over recent years can also achieve the aims of reliability whilst being much more beneficial and meaningful for all stakeholders. The philosophy of programmatic assessment, which utilises the principle of assessment for learning whilst gathering multiple data points to inform a summative decision on competence in due course, provides (in my opinion) much more valuable reassurance about an individual’s readiness to enter a profession or have a licence to practice.

In my current role as Director of Education for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in the UK, my team and I are responsible for the accreditation of veterinary degree programmes… amongst many other things. The RCVS is unique in that it is the professional regulator of vets and vet nurses in the UK, as well as being a Royal College. Once a vet degree has been accredited by RCVS, the graduates from the programme are eligible to register to practice as a vet (i.e. licenced to practice) in the UK. It is essential therefore that our accreditation standards are robust, and ensure that graduates entering the profession are competent.

Recent studies have indicated that, in a number of health professions, there is a disparity in opinion between what universities feel constitutes a ‘competent’ graduate ready to start their professional career, and what employers feel. This is not new, and there are arguments on both sides which suggest the middle ground is relevant… Academics say that some employers are experienced professionals with many years of practice under their belt, and therefore may have forgotten exactly what it is like to start your first job. Alternatively, some employers indicate that graduates leave university with a lot of knowledge, and individual ‘skills’, but do not understand how to put everything together in a holistic manner that is needed in ‘the real world’.

It’s my belief that the more authentic the assessment, the more reassurance (for students as well as employers and other stakeholders) that individuals are able to hit the ground running when entering the workforce. Of course the individual skills and building blocks need to be developed first, but an authentic holistic approach to assessment will prepare graduates for the reality they will face.

It is my hope that, through engagement with EBMA and other organisations / networks focusing on assessment within the wider health professions, the veterinary profession can learn from others in different ways to assess effectively, as well as share their own, innovative good pactice.