Vet students and the pandemic

18 Aug 2020

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone across our community in different ways. Veterinary students have had to contend with major disruptions to their studies, with changes to teaching methods together with restrictions on student’s ability to undertake clinical skills development in veterinary practices, which is usually an integral component of their training.

Earlier this year the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) launched the Australian Veterinary Student Group (AVSG). The AVSG has developed a range of initiatives which have benefited veterinary students during the pandemic.

Access to the AVA’s Return to Work online learning program has been extended to make it available to veterinary students. Originally designed to re-skill vets returning to the profession, the program contains a series of clinical and theoretical modules which have helped veterinary students to develop their professional skills and knowledge.

The AVSG has also developed the Veterinary Volunteer Initiative where vet students can contact veterinarians who are willing to share their time and experience to discuss real clinical cases, primarily via online communication. The AVA has also opened up unlimited access to its online library to aid vet students learning.

Aaron Lau is a final year veterinary student at James Cook University, and he said that the suspension of practical-based teaching has definitely made things harder for students: “Having things change day by day made it hard to plan ahead - such as trying to organise practical placements and investigating employment prospects, but personally I took up the mantra of ‘it is what it is!’ very early on and just tried to tackle each week one day at a time.”


“With placements and face-to-face teaching suspended, a lot of students went hunting for opportunities to apply our knowledge in a clinical fashion. Some great initiatives that have popped up have been some of the student-orientated Facebook groups where vets would share cases and give students a crack at working through them from start to finish. It has been a useful substitute for seeing actual cases, and to practice going over thorough history-taking or our diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to specific diseases”, said Mr Lau.

Dominique McAllister, a third-year veterinary student at the University of Sydney, has been based at the university’s Camden Campus for the duration of the pandemic. Ms McAllister said that initially there was a lot of concern amongst students as to how their veterinary course could be run online when it normally involves a high degree of in-person practical content.

“However, this subsided fairly quickly as the University quickly revised our schedule, ensuring the best chance of progression at the end of this year. Personally, I have found online learning really difficult to engage with and maintaining motivation has been difficult at times, and I’ve often found it hard to put newly learned concepts into place without the practical component that usually comes alongside them”, said Ms McAllister.

“That being said, on the whole, I've actually found this semester to be much less stressful than normal. For the first time in years, we've been allowed to work to our own schedule and learn at our own pace. Showing up to virtual lectures in pyjamas, and sitting down to exams with a cup of tea and a few biscuits definitely has its benefits! I've also been very fortunate to live with a great group of vet students, we've shared plenty of laughs and have been there to support each other during the more difficult times, and overall they've made this semester a really enjoyable one”.

Dominique and her student colleagues have also benefited from accessing various online learning portals such as the Veterinary Information Network Student Resources, along with developing their own knowledge quizzes and undertaking virtual group study sessions.

“I'm hugely grateful for the fact that despite the high volume of online learning, our university has managed to continue delivering content in a way that should ensure we still meet all of the criteria in order to graduate, without being held back a year.

Personally, I also found it really useful to have had such a busy schedule - it meant I had less time to worry about everything going on in the world, and was able to direct my energy towards something important!”, said Ms McAllister.

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