Are Veterinary Nurse OSCE’s like the driving test? We all pass our driving tests and then promptly pick up as many bad habits as we can.
Or is there more truth in the fact that basics are basics and Veterinary Nurses should be able to do X on day one? As you may know, we are proud to a RCVS training practice and in with that, just like the driving test a practical exam is called for.
OSCE’s are objective structured clinical examinations or to the layman a practical test of competence, and it’s not just veterinary nurses that have to demonstrate the ability to complete competently a series of set tasks. Medics, Dentists, Pharmacists and Midwives are to name but a few of the professions that are tested on clinical skill performance and competence in skills relating to their profession.
In the Veterinary Nurse’s case, these range from setting up and reading the results of Laboratory tests to being able to set up a diagnostic radiograph, being able to work out drug doses, to setting up IV fluids and calculate the correct rate.
During these exams, a set time is given to perform the task in hand whilst communicating knowledge and hitting all the correct key points. All tasks, which are the bread and butter or couscous (if you are an exotic vet) of everyday veterinary life. From the beginning, when you teach the students how to do the task, why we do the task and how to do them the OSCE way. Of course there is always another way, a more enlightened real world way – the sort of thing you are not encouraged to do before taking your driving test or as we know it the naughty way! There are ways of keeping bandages on a dog foot, stopping them wearing through, keeping the IV line from pulling out on the patient that is now feeling so much better than this morning when you placed in on IV fluids or bandages falling off but the OSCE way is not necessarily all the knowledge you need for that including the extra sticking plaster and anti-chew bandage you may need in real life.
But at the end of the day as a Veterinary Nurse Student, you have to demonstrate competence and be judged by your peers in a two hour long test. Sounding a lot like a driving test now isn’t it? Can you feel the nerves? The butterflies in the stomach, the racing heart rate and shakes? But I have to say that I have every confidence in our student’s .They demonstrate their competence every day. They do these tasks now without prompting and are a genuine asset to our team, just getting on with every day veterinary tasks. They have grown to fit the title Veterinary Nurse, in every way.
So although we are confident, we are still nervous for them and want them to pass the final hurdle without fail. We too have butterflies and are having trouble sleeping for the past few nights. But in the next two days, Lilly and Livvy will have their OSCE exams. They have practiced and perfected, now they just have to prove they can do it. We have a phrase just ****** DO IT! We have said it so often, we have joked about having T- shirts printed. Now they are launching their career in Veterinary Nursing like little ducklings taking to a big pond, they still need to know the road signs to avoid a crash into deep waters.
Photo by Tim Stief on Unsplash

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