October 29, 2018, by Matthew Lumley

Making the most of my Veterinary degree with the Advantage Award

By Natasha Clark, BVMBVS Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Surgery

Life at the Veterinary School can be very hectic. It can be difficult to fit academic work alongside extracurricular activities – whilst also achieving a good work-life balance. I first heard about the Nottingham Advantage Award when I received an email from Catrin Rutland advertising three new modules based at Sutton Bonington Campus. These modules were all based on campus and I could even combine one with the placements I was already required to complete outside of term-time.

What did I learn from my modules?

Communicating Anatomy through Art and Media

This was my favourite module. Twice a week after lectures we would meet in the anatomy lab where I could undertake one of my passions – drawing. I could develop an idea and spend time in an anatomy environment to create art via drawing, embroidery, cross-stitching, fictional writing, photography or filming. Additionally, I had the chance to attend sessions on how to build a user friendly website to communicate science to a wider audience.

We were encouraged to get involved and be creative right from the first workshop!

For my anatomical artwork, I chose to hand-draw a heart. I could reflect more deeply on what I had learned in my anatomy lectures – taking the time to understand every muscle, vein and artery. It enhanced my skills and made me more confident in identifying these structures in real-life.

We were also asked to reflect upon the benefits of using art in anatomy. I chose to research about Leonardo Da Vinci – whose anatomical study was fundamental to his art. He was most noted for drawing cadavers to highlight parts of the body and gain a deeper understanding of how different body systems functioned.

The Veterinary School holds an annual Art and Science showcase. At the event, students and staff present their own artwork with the aim of achieving well-being and personal development skills. The standard was extremely high.

I was then asked by Catrin Rutland to design and draw different forms of cardiomyopathy for an online scientific journal article. I enjoyed this greatly and it even led to me being a co-author on this journal with Catrin – my first scientific publication to my name. This experience also encouraged me to think creatively about how to engage with the general public to inspire and help them learn.

Career skills for Veterinary students

This module allowed us to think clearly about our personal development, employability, career paths and job search.

I attended evening lectures and workshops from the Careers and Employability Service specially tailored to the veterinary profession. As I enter the final years of my degree, I am finding some placements are very competitive and require a CV. This module helped me understand what employers and placement providers are looking for and how to showcase my skills/attributes. In one session we each chose five attributes and explained to another student why we chose them and how they related our future career. I found this very thought-provoking

The final assessment was to produce a reflective career plan and CV. It was very useful to think about the different career opportunities I have with my degree and even about further study after graduating.

Effective Volunteering

Each year we are required to complete a certain number of placement weeks. I was able to use these placements to gain credit towards the Award through reflecting on my experiences and the knowledge I gained from the placement. I did this by completing a diary, activity log and S.W.O.T. analysis.

I thoroughly enjoyed my placement at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. It was great to reflect on the fantastic job they do caring for injured or marooned seals along the Cornish coast.

I enjoyed writing the diary the most, as it made me realise how much I had learnt from the placement. The art of self-reflection is also an essential part of being a veterinary surgeon. As a newly qualified vet, you are expected to complete a Personal Professional Development – PPD – portfolio, which comprises of case reflection. This module has enhanced my critical reflective ability and allowed me to grow as a person.

So why should you take part?

I would recommend the Award to everyone. It has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, set goals, test myself and broadened my existing skill set.

I have learnt to reflect on my experiences and critically assess my strengths and weaknesses. These are essential life skills that can be extrapolated in my future career as a vet. I have also met new people from other faculties, which has enhanced my team-working skills and allowed me to make life-long friends.

An external lecturer once asked us – “What would set you apart from all the other vets graduating at the same time you are?”

My answer – the Nottingham Advantage Award.

Enrol on the Award this spring

These three modules as well as all our other spring term modules open for applications on 1 November.

Find out more and sign up to modules here.

You can keep up-to-date on the Nottingham Advantage Award via social media, so please like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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