The Latest Trends in Education and Veterinary Professional Development

Ongoing education is vital for veterinary professionals to succeed as practitioners and on larger practice teams. This is true not only for certified and licensed professionals who have continuing education (CE) requirements to meet but also for noncredentialed team members to learn and further their skills. Although license maintenance is ultimately each individual's responsibility, practice leadership must stay updated on trends in education and provide learning opportunities for their team members.

Veterinary Education Matters

People drawn to veterinary medicine have a natural curiosity and desire to learn. Supporting individual's medical and professional interest can increase satisfaction and reduce attrition from your clinic. To demonstrate you support your team's CE requirements and need to further their skills, you must provide them with compensated time to complete educational programs and offset their travel and attendance costs to some degree. Paying for CE programs should be considered an investment in your people, which translates to an investment in your practice.

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Selecting the programs you offer or provide for employees can be an overwhelming task. With online, hybrid, in-person, and hands-on learning formats available across a myriad of platforms, how can you choose those most beneficial for your team? Based on recent trends in education, here are the program types worth pursuing that will benefit your team the most.

The Shift from Lecture-Based to Interactive Learning

Hands-on and experiential learning isn't new to veterinary medicine, but the shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic meant these program types became less common. However, in-person conferences and classes that focus on interactive learning are returning with renewed vigor.

Focused learning can occur in the lecture format, as well as "ah ha" moments but incorporating protocols and physical skill changes can be hard without a hands on practice component. Trending learning models include a lecture component paired with an immediate wet lab or case study to help participants practice and solidify new skills. Other formats acknowledge the importance of listener participation and peer camaraderie, arranging seating that is conducive to discussion.

The Rise of Certificate Programs

Certificate programs have become much more prevelant. An increasing number of organizations offer certifications in fields such as nutrition, infectious diseases, business concepts, or patient-first handling techniques. These programs go further in-depth than a typical single lecture, usually structured in multiple modules the learner can complete over days to weeks, but not so far as to confer an advanced degree. Learners potentially come away from certificate programs with additional credentials, but they should be aware not all certificate programs are created equal. Learners should carefully evaluate the offering institution's reputation, as well as the program's rigor and marketable skill value before committing.

The Focus on Nonclinical Education and Soft Skills

Veterinary educational content has always and will continue to focus primarily on clinical topics. This is the heart of what veterinary professionals do, and learning about disease and case management will never go out of style. Veterinary professionals experience a high volume of learning as part of academic work in veterinary school, and technical learning programs. Post-graduate CE should fill in the gaps as they progress in their careers. That said, educational programs have shifted their focus to soft skills, business acumen, and personal lifestyle management to provide veterinary professionals with a well-rounded educational portfolio.

Interpersonal communication, personal financial planning, and leadership skills are the most sought-after nonclinical and soft skills veterinary teams seek. Another fast-growing area of education is diversity and inclusion. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers CE credit webinars and podcasts on topics ranging from unconscious bias to the realities of veterinarians of color.

There's also been an increasing number of professionals becoming interested in other management areas and pursuing advanced degrees, such as an MBA, MPH, or CVPM program, to broaden their impact on the practice and the larger veterinary community.

The Impact of Passion and Specialization

Veterinary education is no longer a one-size-fits-all concept. Previously, veterinarians and technicians were generalists or specialists, with little gray area between. Specialty medicine traditionally has taken a very set course and is not always a feasible or the best option for practitioners. However, professionals may choose to focus on one or several specialty areas within a general practice's scope by pursuing targeted educational content and gaining the hands-on skills required to offer advanced services. Allowing team members to pursue their passions and focus their efforts in a particular area, then adjusting their schedule to use those skills, can directly impact mental health by reducing anxiety and burnout. You can also add new services—with associated additional revenue—to your practice's offerings.

For example, you may employ veterinarians who love surgery or dental procedures and others who would rather never step foot in the surgery suite. By allowing surgery-focused veterinarians to pursue advanced training and spend more time in the surgery suite, you provide patients with high-quality and complex surgeries while satisfying clinicians who prefer to provide physical examinations. The same concept applies to technicians and other support staff. As long as staffing allows, ask your team members where their passions lie, help them develop those skills, and put team members in positions where they'll thrive.

Staff education goes far beyond required CE hours or cursory costs. Education is a way to develop your team's talents, retain your top performers, and offer increasingly advanced and comprehensive care to clients and patients. By keeping up with educational trends and shifts, and choosing educational programs that further your team members' skills, you help enhance their experiences, job satisfaction, and overall quality of life.

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Sarah Rumple
Owner, Chief Creative Officer of Rumpus Writing and Editing

Sarah Rumple is an award-winning veterinary writer and editor. Since 2011, her work has focused on pet health/behavior and veterinary practice management topics. Her clients include individual veterinary practice owners, national corporations, nonprofit associations, media companies, consultants, and others. Learn more at

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