The Evidence Base for Developing a Veterinary Business Management Curriculum

  • Elizabeth Jackson Royal Veterinary College Hawkshead Lane North Mymms Hatfield Hertfordshire AL9 7TA United Kingdom
  • Sarah Hauser Royal Veterinary College Hawkshead Lane North Mymms Hatfield Hertfordshire AL9 7TA United Kingdom



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Objective: This paper sets out to highlight the ongoing need for integrated teaching of business skills in the veterinary curriculum.

Background: In response to the changing environment of the veterinary profession, it is important to understand the future needs of veterinary practitioners. While changes to the veterinary curriculum have been made in recent years, they have been highly varied across schools and little evidence is available on how these have improved students’ non-technical skills, knowledge, aptitudes, and attitudes. 

Evidentiary value: This literature review of 23 papers provides a solid basis for the further development of knowledge on business management issues in veterinary curricula. The impact on practice from our findings is substantial. The role of clinicians in academia is recognised as a primary source of engaging students with business management through their day-to-day teaching. Furthermore, the role of first-opinion vets who take on placement students (known as extra mural studies or ‘EMS’ in the UK) cannot be underestimated as they play an essential role in ensuring that students perceive business skills with the same importance as clinical skills.

Methods: This research draws on the findings of 23 papers that emerged as relevant from the structured literature search.  The search yielded 124 papers but many were excluded because they focused on issues beyond the search strategy, did not report empirical findings so were based largely on discussion and conjecture, were not about the undergraduate veterinary curriculum, were not written in English or were not related to business teaching.

Results:  Employers of recent graduates highly value business skills, and often base their hiring decision on non-technical skills, rather than clinical skills. While changes to the veterinary curriculum have been made to include more non-technical training by individual veterinary schools, it is unclear how effective these programmes have been.

Conclusion:  Veterinarians have identified a need for greater inclusion of business skills in the veterinary curriculum, however successfully integrating business skills into the curriculum will mean that students learn business principles in non-traditional, non-lecture-style environments with materials inter-twining with clinical teaching. This will mean a significant shift from traditional classroom based delivery of business lectures to an integrated approach. This can only be achieved if business and clinical teaching staff work together in delivering business education to the next generation of veterinarians. That said, the evidence regarding the importance of business within the veterinary medical curriculum, coupled with increasing competition in the market for first-opinion veterinary services, means that changes in the approach to teaching business may be easier to achieve than ever before.

Application: The results of this research are applicable to practicing veterinarians in both academic and private practice. It is clear that business management needs to be integrated throughout the veterinary curriculum and thus ‘owned’ by academics with both clinical and non-clinical roles. Veterinarians in private practice also have a critical role to play as these people are the gatekeepers to the real-world experience that placement students encounter. 

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