Life-long learning in laboratory animal science and ethics for veterinary and para-veterinary professionals in South Africa
Keywords:animal research, continuing professional development, education and training, learning outcomes, laboratory animal science, veterinary and para-veterinary professionals, animal ethics
Veterinary and para-veterinary professionals working in the animal research sector are critical to ensure scientific quality and the humane care and use of animals. However, there are few focused education and training opportunities available for these professionals in South Africa.
A survey of veterinarians working in animal research, undertaken by the South African Association for Laboratory Animal Science, identified the need for more advanced education and training opportunities beyond the routine Day 1 Skills currently provided for in undergraduate education. These could be broadly categorised into knowledge and skills relating to species-specific husbandry, procedures and clinical approaches, research-related biosecurity and biosafety, and study-specific ethical and animal welfare considerations.
A subsequent workshop, attended by 85 veterinary and para-veterinary professionals in the animal research sector, identified 53 life-long learning needs, each with an associated learning outcome, for this professional community. These were grouped into five overarching themes: Personal development (9); Leadership and management skills (12); Education and training skills (5); Welfare, ethics and clinical skills (20); and Regulations and quality-assurance (7). Of the 53 learning outcomes, 14 were knowledge-based, ten were competencies, and 29 both knowledge and competence.
These life-long learning opportunities, if available and implemented, will address important needs of veterinary and paraveterinary professionals in the animal research sector in South Africa. This would empower these professionals, assist in improving animal and human wellbeing, support high-quality ethical science, and maintain public confidence in the sector, thus enabling a more satisfactory career environment.