Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Assessing Readiness for Clinical Practice: Students' Perspectives of Their Veterinary Curriculum

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Assessing Readiness for Clinical Practice: Students' Perspectives of Their Veterinary Curriculum

Article excerpt

The clinical experience in veterinary medicine represents at least half if not more of the prospective veterinarians' education. Very little information is currently available regarding the effectiveness of teaching in veterinary education from the student perspective. Similarly, little is known about the teaching practices, learning opportunities or how teaching and learning supports the acquisition or development of clinical skills (Ironside, McNelis, & Ebright, 2014). "Despite the long history of the clinician-student-patient model, factors that influence teaching and learning in the [veterinary medicine] teaching hospital are largely unknown, and the resulting outcome may be inadequate" (Lane & Strand, 2008, p. 397).

Several veterinary medicine reports describe perceived preparedness for practice from an alumni perspective (Jaarsma, Dolmans, Scherpbier, & Van Beukelen, 2008; Hardin & Ainsworth, 2007) but this information may be somewhat altered by time and experience. Qualitative studies have described learners' perspective of clinical education in nursing (Ironside, McNelis, & Ebright, 2014; Killam & Heerschap, 2013) and medicine (Stark, 2003). Students have reported challenges to learning in this environment due to lack of mentorship, anxiety, and incivility (Killam & Heerschap, 2013). The need for research and scholarship regarding how students can be best prepared for practice is imperative (Ironside, McNelis, & Ebright, 2014).

The overall purpose of this investigation was to describe fourth year veterinary medicine students' perceived preparedness for clinical practice. Four subquestions were asked. What were students' perceptions of their clinical education? How well prepared did students feel to enter their chosen area of veterinary medicine? What were students' perceptions of the knowledge and skills they had acquired? How satisfied were students with the school's curriculum, teaching and assessments? Findings from this study provide insight to faculty and administrators regarding students' learning experiences. Also, the findings help illuminate what aspects of clinical education best prepare students to pursue independent practice as clinician. This study offers insight regarding how professional school disciplines can utilize qualitative inquiry to explore student experiences during clinical teaching encounters.

Background about the College's Curriculum

At this veterinary medicine college, students spend the first two years in a classroom setting, then move into clinical rotations from May-December of their 3rd year, return to the classroom from January of the 3rd year to December of the 4th year, with the summer of that year available for externships, then return to clinical rotations from January-May of the 4th year. Thus, the clinical portion of the curriculum is "split" into two sections separated by advanced didactic content and externships.


The overall purpose of this investigation was to describe students' perceived preparedness for clinical practice. After receiving institutional review board (IRB # #2014-U0943) approval, participants were recruited. During the recruitment process students received a description of the study and information about the duration of the focus group meeting.


Fourth year (n =101) veterinary medicine students were recruited to participate in the study via email invitations during their final semester of veterinary medical school. Twenty-five students, including 18 females, seven males, four Hispanics, one Black and the remainder White elected to participate in this study.

Data Collection Process

Each participant was assigned to one of three focus groups based on time availability of the moderator and the participating student. Three separate focus group meetings were scheduled to maximize participation. Students who agreed to participate in the study were sent the focus group questions and the informed consent prior to the scheduled meeting. …

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