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What is EBVM?

Simply put, evidence-based decisions combine clinical expertise with the most relevant and best available scientific evidence whilst taking into account each patient and owners’ individual circumstances. This is what we mean by Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine (EBVM).

Even though it might seem that every veterinary decision is already based on this principle, EBVM aims to make the decision-making process easier, quicker, and less prone to bias or interference from poor quality studies.

"EBVM is not about pursuing dogma. EBVM is not a home for evangelising zealots. EBVM is another facet of the constantly changing face of veterinary medicine"3

How does EBVM affect me?

If you are a registered veterinary surgeon, registered veterinary nurse, or studying to be one, EBVM is relevant to you.

“The RCVS expects veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to make clinical decisions according to their professional judgement, based on the best available evidence at the time and what is right for the individual animal/keeper... Veterinary teams should be aware of the principles of evidence-based veterinary medicine... and how it benefits them and their patients. Veterinary undergraduate curricula should reflect this need...”

 RCVS Position Paper on EBVM, May 2012 [PDF 118 KB]

Since the launch of the Practice Standards Scheme in 2005, there has been a requirement for practice teams to have systems to monitor and discuss the clinical outcome of cases.

Practices are required to implement the lessons learned into everyday practice and therefore take active steps towards improving clinical effectiveness of treatments and procedures. This is all part of Clinical Governance.

In 2012 the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct was updated to become the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct. The Codes for Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Nurses now include the requirement that clinical governance should form part of their professional activities.

Clinical governance is described in the Code as "a continuing process of reflection, analysis and improvement in professional practice for the benefit of the animal patient and the client owner”. The supporting guidance to the Code suggests that the main areas covered in clinical governance are animal safety, clinical effectiveness and patient and client experience.

Clinical effectiveness measures to what extent a particular procedure achieves the desired outcome. Practices wanting to be clinically effective need to have access to the best available knowledge in order to discuss procedures and draw up practice protocols etc.

How to find, identify and use this “best available knowledge” is the problem for vets in practice.

The RCVS Position Paper on EBVM [PDF 118 KB]  states, “in order to be considered fit-to-practice, veterinary practitioners hold the responsibility to ground their decisions on sound, objective and up-to-date evidence, when available”.

1Cockcroft, Peter and Holmes, Mark (2003) Handbook of Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

2Dean, Rachel (2013) How to read a paper and appraise the evidence. In Practice, 35 (5), pp. 282-285

3 Cockcroft (2003) p3.

Further reading

Holmes, M. And Cockcroft, P. (2004) Evidence-based veterinary medicine 1. Why is it important and what skills are needed? In Practice, 26 (1), pp. 28-33