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Editors Note

The Emotional Topic of Veterinary Student Selection

Simon R. Platt BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN University of Georgia

University of Georgia
College of Veterinary Medicine
editorinchief@navc.com

Simon R. Platt, BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN, is a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. His research interests include ischemic disease of the central nervous system, canine brain tumors, and epilepsy.

Dr. Platt is a member of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force and a founding member of the Southeastern Veterinary Neurology Group. He has authored or coauthored more than 190 journal articles and 50 book chapters and is the co-editor of three textbooks: BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Neurology, Manual of Small Animal Neurological Emergencies, and Canine and Feline Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Management. Dr. Platt received his veterinary degree from University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) and residency in neurology and neurosurgery at University of Florida.

The Emotional Topic of Veterinary Student Selection
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A university in Australia has recently introduced emotional intelligence testing as part of the selection process for its medical program with the aim of enrolling students with the strong social skills needed to succeed at university and in the workplace. Those candidates with acceptable educational achievements were further evaluated by an external organization specializing in the development and delivery of psychometric assessments. The test apparently looks at how well an individual can recognize, understand, and manage emotions in oneself and in others and how this information is then used to guide an individual’s thinking and actions.

Given the stresses that most veterinarians face now with workload, debt, and the changing attitudes of clientele, along with the profession’s grim statistical ranking with respect to suicide, we have to ask ourselves every day what can change. Obviously, the problem is multifaceted but it is clear that we are simply not prepared for this profession if we have to rely on IQ alone. One change which could be adopted, if we look toward other professions and countries for solutions, would be in the current student selection process.

The medical profession is not alone in using psychometric testing as a way to help select students for their graduate training programs, and such testing forms part of the recruitment and selection process in many fields of employment. Psychometric testing is now used by over 80% of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States and by over 75% of the Times Top 100 companies in the United Kingdom. Psychometric tests aim to measure attributes such as intelligence, aptitude, and personality, with testing falling into two main categories: personality questionnaires, which try to measure aspects of your personality, and aptitude tests, which try to measure your intellectual and reasoning abilities. They propose to provide a potential employer with an insight into how well you work with other people, how well you handle stress, and whether you will be able to cope with the intellectual demands of the job.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

— CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

So, is such testing appropriate to be used in part as a tool to select the future of veterinary medicine? The selection of students for veterinary school is currently challenging but must evolve as the profession has evolved. Many more students apply than can be accommodated, which at first sight appears to be a good thing as it allows the best students to be accepted. However, the real problem lies in determining how “best” should be defined. Is it the student who will perform best at veterinary school or the one who will perform best in a lifetime of medical practice? Are the two the same or are there different predictors for each? It is reasonable to define success at veterinary school in terms of examination results, but how should success in veterinary practice be determined?

Although it would seem wrong to assume that if we are emotionally unprepared entering veterinary education then we will be forever emotionally unprepared for the profession, are other professions wrong to be using this as a starting point?

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