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Introduction from the Director of Teaching

The Clinical Curriculum

This curriculum document outlines for you the complete programme of study
for the clinical veterinary course at Cambridge. The course is continually
developing and, we hope, improving, so a new document is produced late
each summer. The complete document is available to consult in the library
and also on the departmental web site. Every student is provided with a
shortened document giving details of staff and the examination structure for
the course.

Although your primary interests will be in your particular year of study we
believe it is important that you have access to an overview of the whole
course to see how it all fits together and how the 4th year courses link and
lead on to 5th and 6th year. Thus although separate booklets are printed for
each of the three years, the structure and outline content of all three years
can be viewed on CamTools.

At the beginning of the clinical course it is sometimes difficult to see how all
the components of the course fit together and what are the important aims
and objectives. The following outline may help you to understand this.

You should be aiming to develop three broad areas simultaneously as you go
through the course:
1. basic knowledge of veterinary science;
2. transferable skills such as the ability to write clearly and concisely on
scientific veterinary subjects, to communicate to colleagues and lay
people and to use constructively all the Information Technology
resources available to you.
3. professional skills such as the ability to control a fractious animal, give
an intravenous injection and ausculate a chest.

Although opportunities are provided to develop all three areas in the
timetabled curriculum it is essential that opportunities are taken outside the
formal timetable to develop all these skills. A Clinical Skills Centre will be
available from autumn 2014 to facilitate this.

You are now entering on a professional career, which is rarely a 9 am to 5 pm
job and demands much personal motivation.

In particular the course exam system in 4th and 5th year and the continuous
assessment in 6th year require a disciplined and regular 'out of hours' study
pattern. An end of year 'exam blitz' is not appropriate to this course.

As future members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons you are
expected to behave in a manner appropriate to this future role as
veterinarians. In the appendix to this document you will find information about
the Veterinary Student Code of Conduct and fitness to practise veterinary
medicine. You should read this carefully and if you have any questions or
concerns you should discuss them as soon as possible with either your
clinical supervisor or the Director of Veterinary Teaching. It also includes a
copy of the veterinary students register document, which you will have been
required to sign when you began the clinical course.

The objectives of the course as a whole can be described rather formally as


Legal framework. The curriculum and teaching delivered in the clinical
veterinary course must satisfy the requirement of Directive 78/l027/EEC. The
Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 makes it imperative for the course to retain its
accreditation by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, so that students
are able, on passing Part III of the Final VetMB examination, to register with
the RCVS.
The objectives of individual components of the clinical course are set out in
the Curriculum Document, which is revised and reissued annually. Students
must achieve these objectives by passing all assessed components of the
course and attending associated practical classes (and demonstating
proficiency in a range of practical skills [“black book” sign-ups]) and extra
mural studies (minimum 26 weeks).

Fourteen course examinations are distributed over the first 5 terms of the
clinical course. These assessments are multiple choice papers and constitute,
collectively, Part I of the Final VetMB, which must be passed in its entirety
before sitting Part II of the Final VetMB at in the 6th term (Easter Term of 5th
year). The Part II exam – two written papers plus a practical exam – tests
students' ability to recall and synthesise what has been learnt so far, and
marks the end of the first level of the clinical course.

Our overall objectives can therefore be divided into two.

On completing the first level of the clinical course, at the end of the 6th term,
students should have:

1. a knowledge of the structure and function of healthy animals which will
allow students to recognise and understand abnormal and disease
states of body systems;

2. a sympathetic understanding of the handling, management and
nutrition of domesticated animals and of their needs in health and
3. a knowledge of the principles and practice of preventive veterinary
medicine and veterinary public health;

4. basic skills in clinical diagnostic problem-solving, and in formulation of
treatment and prevention strategies;

5. basic skills in communication

6. a knowledge of reproductive physiology and genetics sufficient to
understand breeding management in large and small animals;

7. an understanding of the principles underlying the pathology,
pathogenesis, diagnosis, epidemiology and control of disease;
8. knowledge of the principles of surgical techniques;

9. a basic knowledge and interpretation of diagnostic imaging,
(radiography and ultrasound), and have received a basic introduction to
advanced imaging techniques, e.g. MRI, nuclear medicine;

10. basic clinical knowledge of veterinary pharmacology, pharmacy and

11. basic knowledge of the law and ethical codes affecting veterinary

12. an understanding of scientific method, and an ability to apply basic
scientific knowledge, sufficient to enable students to extend their
knowledge of, and utilise future developments in, veterinary science.
The second level of the course occupies part of Easter Term of 5th year,
the following summer vacation and 6th year. By the time they sit Part III of
the Final VetMB examination, students should have applied their
theoretical knowledge and increased their practical skills in the areas
above, and should also have acquired:

13. the ability to draw up a list of differential diagnoses following
investigation of disease;

14. the ability to devise and carry out a treatment or management plan
following clinical assessment of common medical problems;
15. knowledge of techniques necessary to carry out under supervision
common surgical procedures in domesticated animals, including
anaesthesia of most species;

16. an ability to manage common obstetrical problems;

17. the capacity to communicate effectively with clients and with
colleagues in both the veterinary profession and other disciplines;

18. the ability to work well as a member of a team;

19. the capacity to undertake successfully an extended study of a topic and
to communicate the results verbally and in writing.

Aims, objectives and learning outcomes are also provided for each segment
of the course to help you understand what you need to achieve as you go
It should be emphasised that this is a core curriculum to provide you with the
essential basic tools to become a successful practitioner or to pursue any of
the many other diverse careers to which a degree in veterinary science may

It should in no way preclude exploration of other areas of veterinary
knowledge and it is assumed and expected that you will develop your own
particular interests as you progress through the course. This curriculum is the
basic core from which to start.

The course is being run for your benefit so make the most of it.

Although you do not have the regular weekly supervisions that were a feature
of the preclinical course and the opportunities for close contact with teaching
staff that this produced, this is a small and compact department and staff
expect and welcome close interaction with students.

Your Clinical Supervisor is formally your first line of assistance for academic
matters but do ask questions of lecturers and take the opportunity to question
and discuss things in practical and rotation sessions.

Feedback. We welcome your comments on the course both good and bad
and do try to respond constructively. Many of the changes in the course have
been initiated by student comments. Questionnaires are an important
mechanism for us to discover how things are going and to identify areas that
need attention.
Filling in questionnaires is a chore but is vital for us to know how you feel
about the various parts of the study programme. We also collect views
through the Student Consultative Committee and meetings the Director of
Teaching has with year groups.

We also aim to give feedback to you, through year representatives the Faculty
Board and Student Consultative Committee, through Clinical Supervisors
following assessment of various types, and through rotation organisers in the
final year.

You need to know how you are progressing. If you are unsure about this or
anything else to do with the course please do not be afraid to ask.

The following people particularly are here to help:

Alun Williams Director of Teaching
Tel: 37640 Email:

Penny Watson EMS Co-ordinator
Tel: 66248 Email:

Katheryn Ayres Academic Support Officer
Tel: 66365 Email:

Miranda Stock/Rachel McGaw Senior Secretary – Academic Support
Tel: 30811 Email:
Jackie Brearley Pastoral Support
Tel: 37634 Email:

Also use your year representatives. Their job is to represent your views as
well as being a point of contact with the year for staff.

We would not claim that this course is easy, or that you will all find all aspects
of it equally interesting, but we do hope you will see where it is leading, and
why, and find it enjoyable and a stimulating start to continued professional
development throughout your career, wherever that may lead.

Professor Alun Williams
Director of Teaching