Studying for an ANZCVS Membership Examination

Are you a registered veterinarian working in New Zealand or Australia who wants an extra challenge? Do you have a particular subject area that interests you and makes you want to learn more? And/or do you just want a few extra letters after your name? You might want to consider sitting an examination for Membership of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZCVS). This is something I am currently working towards, and I just wanted to share what I have learnt so far about the Membership process.

Disclaimer: This post is designed to increase awareness of veterinary membership examinations and therefore gives details of the process from the author’s perspective. The author is in no way affiliated with the ANZCVS and details of the examination process may change – you should check out the ANZCVS website and Candidate Handbook for official information.

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Malibu helping me study the Five Domains Model

Eligibility

First things first, who can sit the exams? There are a few basic requirements, namely that you:

  1. Are eligible to be registered as a veterinarian in New Zealand or Australia and;
  2. Graduated at least 3.5 years before taking an exam.

This is fairly standard across the board. On the Application Form, they also ask you to provide your curriculum vitae and emphasise “the extent of your experience in the area in which you are applying for examination”. It does mention on the Membership Page that you should have spent at least 4 years in a full-time ‘veterinary activity’ between graduating and sitting the exam. So this is something to think about.

At this point it is also a good idea to check out the individual Subject Guidelines for additional requirements.

Choosing a Subject

So which subject are you going to sit your Membership examination in? There are a lot to choose from! They are currently divided into three categories:

  • Category 1 are the subjects that are examined every year. These are the big four of: Small Animal Medicine, Small Animal Surgery, Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, and Veterinary Radiology (Small Animal)
  • Category 2 are examined every second year – you will need to find out when exactly. The ‘Membership Examination 2017’ offerings are available now.
  • Category 3 are no longer offered, but have been at some point in the past

When you are choosing a subject, it is a good idea to read the individual Subject Guidelines for the areas you are interested in. They tend to list the learning outcomes for the particular subject and give a list of recommended reading. Although this list is not exhaustive, it will give you a pretty good idea of what you will be studying.

It is fairly important to be interested in the study area!

Practicalities of the Examinations: where, when, and how much?

Again, check out the ‘Membership Examinations 2017’ on the website for 2017 dates and fees.

How much does it cost? The 2017 examination fee is set at A$1,323. This does not include your flights and accommodation to sit the oral and/or practical examination(s) on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Where and when do I sit it? The written examinations are sat in June and are available at various testing locations throughout New Zealand and Australia. However, the oral and/or practical examination(s) are held in June/July on the Gold Coast in Australia – it is coupled with the College Science Week.

Find out More

I have tried to hyperlink the relevant areas throughout this post, but I still recommend you:

  • Visit the ANZCVS website, which has information on the Membership Page
  • Check out the Candidate Handbook for more details
  • Read up on the Subject Guidelines and Chapter overviews
  • Think about it!
  • Apply – applications have to be in early (31st October in the year before your exam)!
  • Find a mentor (more about this in the Candidate Handbook) and download Sample Examination Papers
  • Talk to people! I cannot over-stress the importance of this. As I mentioned, the subject guidelines are not exhaustive and may be a little overwhelming. I highly recommend finding someone that has successfully sat the same examination so that you can pick their brain for tips and tricks.

I have found going to veterinary conferences (e.g. AVA, NZVA, and College Science Week) really helpful. There’s tonnes of awesome people to meet and a lot of good study material is presented in the relevant stream(s) for your subject. You could even meet your examiners there!

That is probably enough information to get you started. If you have any comments or questions, please get in touch.

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My Research

As I finished my postgraduate diploma last year I was recently asked by Massey University to complete a graduate profile for their website. This gave me a chance to reflect on my research and where I am heading with my career. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to write my first blog post – using a combination of the questions Massey supplied me and a few of my own:

Kat Paws B+W
Kat Welfare Matters Facebook Page

What is your thesis title?

Quality of life assessment in geriatric cats

Please expand on your research topic and why it appealed.

I am undertaking research in animal welfare. My PhD focuses on the assessment of quality of life (QoL) in companion animals, specifically as it relates to end-of-life or euthanasia decision-making in cats.

I have been trained as a veterinarian to detect, diagnose, and treat animals – often with the intention of extending their lives. As the level of veterinary care available to cats has improved, many of these animals are living longer. This, coupled with the popularity of feline pets in New Zealand, has led to an increase in the number of geriatric animals. But is this increase in life expectancy also representative of a good QoL? How can we assess this? And, more importantly, how can we help pet owners and veterinarians improve their end-of-life decision-making to safeguard animal welfare?

I am focusing on the methods currently available to assess QoL in companion animals, and how these could be improved upon to better assist owners and veterinarians in making end-of-life decisions. I will explore the factors that influence end-of-life decision-making in geriatric cats, and cats with chronic disease, from both the owners’ and veterinarians’ perspective. I would like to know what processes veterinarians and owners are currently using to make end-of-life decisions, including what is being taught in undergraduate veterinary science curriculums across Australasia. I am particularly interested in geriatric cats and/or cats with chronic disease whose slow progression, and eventual death, may result in them being kept alive beyond an ‘acceptable’ level for their quality of life.

Why did you decide to do a PhD?

I knew early on during my undergraduate degree in veterinary science that I would like to either become a specialist veterinarian or enter into a research career. After graduating I undertook an internship at a specialist practice in Auckland, followed by some time in general practice, after which I realised clinical practice was not for me. I returned to Massey University in 2015 to undertake a Postgraduate Diploma, with a focus on animal welfare science, and further developed my research topic. I was lucky enough to be selected for one of Massey’s doctoral scholarships and started my full-time PhD in March 2016.

Why did you decide to do your PhD at Massey?

Massey University was the obvious choice. It has some of the top animal welfare scientists in the world based in the Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre (AWSBC) of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences (IVABS). I also jumped at the opportunity to return to the veterinary school and the potential to be involved with future veterinary scientists.

Describe your study experience/support from supervisors.

My supervisory team is made up of top representatives of their field. Two are based in IVABS and the third is from the School of Psychology. It is great having a mixed team on my side – we have really interesting discussions with very different points of view. We meet regularly and I feel like I can always approach them for a chat.

I am also very lucky to have met and made friends with a really supportive group of postgraduate students. It is good to have that support network to share stories with and laugh about the silly things that we do. The IVABS postgraduate team are also very supportive – our lovely administrator goes above and beyond to make our lives that much easier.

Have you done any internships or leadership programmes while at Massey?

I was invited to act as a facilitator for VetStart 2016 – a programme for first year veterinary undergraduate science and veterinary technology students. I had enjoyed the programme as a student and was excited to be invited to attend and co-facilitate the same experience for a group of students. The camp involved team-building exercises as well as outdoors activities, experiential learning exercises, and a karaoke evening.

What are your plans for the future?

While completing my PhD, I will be studying for the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZCVS) membership examination in animal welfare. This will bring me one step closer towards becoming a specialist in animal welfare. I hope to continue in the academic/research field and be actively involved in supporting the next generation of veterinarians and animal scientists.