The Transition From Veterinary Student to Practitioner: A "Make or Break" Period

J Vet Med Educ. Summer 2009;36(2):209-15. doi: 10.3138/jvme.36.2.209.


This paper examines the transition from veterinary student to practitioner, in the context of assessing the outcomes of the veterinary degree program in which the students were trained. Questionnaires were sent to all registered veterinarians who graduated from Massey University between 2001 and 2003 and the heads of human resources of all veterinary practices in New Zealand. These groups, together with veterinarians who had graduated from Massey University between 1993 and 2000, were also invited to participate in focus groups or interviews. Replies were received from 64 graduates and 114 employers. In addition, 115 veterinarians were interviewed or joined focus groups. Most participants thought that the veterinary degree program at Massey University provided a strong basis in scientific theory and clinical reasoning, but was lacking in communication skills training. Clinical exposure was regarded as less than optimal, but adequate for starting practice and as much as could be achieved within the duration of the program. Graduates and employers both recognized the pivotal importance of the first year in practice in the careers of veterinarians. Most graduates had positive experiences of their first year, but for those whose experiences were negative, they were often strongly so. Situations in which confidence and clinical competence could be developed in a supportive environment were associated with positive outcomes. The first year after graduation was regarded by graduates and employers as a "make or break" period. Many of the changes that the veterinary profession is currently experiencing, particularly in terms of the demographics of its entrants, impact upon this first post-graduation year.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Professional Competence*
  • Schools, Veterinary
  • Social Support
  • Students, Health Occupations / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Veterinarians / psychology*
  • Young Adult