Working as a clinical coach is extremely rewarding, but training the next wave of Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVNs) is no easy task and brings its own challenges. You need to set timely targets, plan and structure efficient training systems, build good working relationships and maintain personal boundaries.
Whether you’ve recently taken on the role of clinical coach, have been supporting Student Veterinary Nurses (SVNs) for years, or would like to move into such a role in the future; you have probably asked yourself at some point: what can I do to best support my student?
Take a look at our top tips for supporting your students in practice here…
Get to know your student
Sit down with your student early to understand more about how they learn best, where they’re at currently in their veterinary nurse training, and if they have any particular professional interests they wish to pursue during or after their training.
Stage of veterinary nurse training
Knowing where your student is in their training early on can help you start off on the right foot in relation to support. For example, if they are new to practice life you may wish to give them space to settle in before having an informal chat about the NPL/e-portfolio and make a plan for the following weeks. Whereas if they aren’t new to practice then you can begin NPL/e-portfolio planning straight away.
Everybody learns differently, some verbally, some practically, some with diagrams. Do they find learning from a book easier than hands on practical work, for example? Once you know what your student prefers, you can cater to that and come up with easier ways for them to learn the skills they need to.
Is there a particular area of nursing your student really enjoys or wants to learn more about? If so, keep that in mind in relation to training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Encouraging professional passions is just as important as getting the NPL completed! You could even set your own mini revision tasks or quizzes to help them learn more about a particular area.
Make time for your SVN!
Although busy practice life sometimes means that 1-2-1 time with your student may be hard to find, it’s important to make time to talk to your SVN about their progress and the NPL/e-portfolio.
It may be worth setting up short, but weekly, meetings to ask your student about life in practice and college work. This way you’ll keep track of how they’re doing, and also how they’re feeling about college and work. This is also an opportunity for your student to ask questions and let you know if they are struggling with anything.
You can also use this time to plan their tasks for the following weeks and give them a timeframe to work from, this will keep them focused instead of feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks. Try to keep a record of these discussions too so you have a reference for the next meeting.
You’re not on your own – get the team involved!
Although you are the designated clinical coach, it’s important to remember that the rest of your team can be involved in training. You have the option to delegate certain tasks to those who may have a particular skillset. Say, for example, one of your colleagues is an expert IV placer. It would make sense for your student to practice with that colleague, and then you can observe the final results and if the IV is placed to your satisfaction then you can sign off the student as competent.
It might also be useful when it comes to supporting NPL or e-portfolio completion to have a list, that all team members can access, detailing criteria to be covered (for example, they may need a list of radiographic views from the x-ray room). This way everyone can see what cases the student requires and so are able to alert them if something suitable comes in. This might be especially useful for cases which you may not see as often as others (an exotic / wildlife species, for example).
You could also put post it notes on drugs or equipment that the student needs to use, which will encourage other staff members to involve the student if their work includes these items. This way every little opportunity to cover the NPL/e-portfolio is taken advantage of. Making sure everyone is aware of difficult cases to cover also helps so that the whole team can help in identifying suitable cases that the student can be involved with.
Patience and kindness are virtues
Every registered veterinary nurse began their journey as a student. Remember that you were once in their shoes, and that practice can be an intimidating and scary place for new students. Clinical coaching is not just about delivering the clinical skills – a friendly face, a pat on the back and a cup of tea are essential parts of the unwritten curriculum.
Ask for help!
If you can see that your student is failing to achieve in a particular area, there’s no problem with seeking the guidance of another coach, who may be able to give you advice on how to best educate in a particular area.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to ring up your Primary Centre if you’ve got any worries! A good Primary Centre will have no problems answering questions and offering advice. There is no such thing as a stupid question and the training should cover a lot of the basics.
Want to learn more about how to best support your students? Join us at Clinical Coach Congress!
Clinical Coach Congress is the largest event of its kind, dedicated exclusively to supporting clinical coaches that are training student veterinary nurses in practice.
During the congress you will be able to listen to a jam packed timetable of relevant talks, as well as gain lots of best practice information and tips on coaching/mentoring your student. Not only this, you will gain valuable CPD hours!
Clinical Coach Congress may be particularly useful if you’re new to the role of a clinical coach and looking for some guidance, or if you’re more experienced and looking to develop your role further and discuss ideas with fellow clinical coaches.