VBMA gives additional skills to vet students

Students working together
The Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) is an American-based student-run club; it is well established in all US universities with increasing numbers of international chapters. Our chapter started when I and a few other students understood the concept of the association and the benefits it could bring to the students and graduates of Glasgow university. I got advice from students who had started a chapter at the Royal Veterinary College and our chapter is now going from strength to strength.

What does the VBMA do? 

The basic idea behind the VBMA is to give students additional skills in the behind-the-scenes areas of practising veterinary medicine, which aren't necessarily cultivated during the standard timetable. By obtaining knowledge and aptitude in these areas it is possible to increase success in the veterinary field with personal, interpersonal and client relationships.

Certificate for attendance

The Glasgow VBMA chapter holds regular talks during the first two terms of the academic year, which are open to all students to attend. Speakers talk for an hour or more on a variety of topics that they believe to be important, or give an insight into the working life of a vet. We help students by covering a range of topics, allowing them to work towards a certificate, details of which can be included on their CV as an added skill to show potential employers. Certificates can be obtained at either silver level (16 hours of talks attended) or gold level (32 hours' attendance).

"We help students by covering a range of topics, allowing them to work towards a certificate"

The certificates show that the graduate has attended talks covering four topics that are decided by a national committee based in the USA. The four categories are: business operations, management and ownership; business finance; business leadership; and career and personal development. This offers a broad scope for talks, and speakers have come from far and near to talk on various aspects of the profession. Speakers have recently included Glasgow vet school's own lecturers, with an amusing yet serious acting session about how vets can behave badly, which helped us to acknowledge how as students and new graduates we can cope with these situations within the profession.

Chocolate payments

Another discussion involved using 120 Maltesers to show how a vet bill of £120 is divided into different overheads. We had great fun dividing up the chocolates and allocating various amounts to each area. However, by the time it came to working out the number of sweets that were equivalent to our profits, we were surprised at how few we were allowed to eat. Crucially, from a practical point of view, we all forgot that the tax man required a proportion of our hard-earned pile of sweets.

Career related seminars

We have held seminars with well established companies in the industry, going through a multitude of issues such as how to make your CV stand out as a new graduate and how to read between the lines in job adverts. For example, we heard about a new graduate who had submitted her CV with a cake to a practice that mentioned that its staff enjoyed baking. In addition to this we have hosted speakers from companies that have given us an insight into career options beyond general practice.

Our first set of students have just completed their silver certificates and are set to graduate from the vet school in summer 2015, with several students aiming to achieve their gold certificates before graduation by continuing to attend the talks.

Potential employers

But, what does the VBMA mean for potential employers? By understanding what the association does for students, employers can realise that graduates with a VBMA certificate can benefit their practice. VBMA graduates understand many important business aspects. From hosting the talks, I am aware that many of our members understand how and why certain decisions are made in practice, and they are able to begin conversations that other students might shy away from; for example, talks regarding money. Personally, this knowledge has also helped me in my ability to control my own finances and to plan ahead and for unforeseen circumstances. I know that I am not the only one who has been able to transfer these important skills to their personal life.

VBMA students are learning to be business aware by getting to grips with veterinary business, which we believe makes us more employable. Alongside this, Glasgow VBMA members are having fun and learning with enthusiasm.

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