The health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals

Mary is a veterinary surgeon working in Devon. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1998 and has eighteen years of experience, working in various roles in mixed practice, for an out-of-hours clinic, for a large group practice and as a government veterinary surgeon.

In 2014, Mary became a Postgraduate Dean for the RCVS, supporting recent graduates through their Professional Development Phase (PDP) and speaking to final year students and recent graduates. In 2015 Mary joined the board of Vetlife (previously the Veterinary Benevolent Fund), the charity that supports the veterinary community.

Mary Thomson

Mary Thomson

It was with some trepidation that I attended the first Vet Futures Action Group meeting earlier this year. A bit like the first day in a new job. Will the others like me? How will my background equip me for the work of the Action Group? But these worries were short lived. I’ve enjoyed every minute of our meetings and have met some fantastic people.

My primary area of work with Vet Futures is health and wellbeing. Fortunately, through my roles in general practice, as a director of Vetlife and as an RCVS Postgraduate Dean, I am in regular contact with people who are experts in this area. I hope that, with the help of these contacts, we have created an Action Plan that will be embraced by the profession and will truly make a difference over the next few years.

As a practitioner I was particularly concerned that health and wellbeing should not just become a tickbox on a practice standards list. Through Vet Futures I am committed to taking positive steps to improve the health and wellbeing of the whole veterinary team. As a profession we are responsible for setting and upholding standards of animal welfare. We can only do this if we look after our own wellbeing and look out for our colleagues. A change in culture resulting in a more confident, resilient, healthy and mutually-supportive veterinary team will not happen overnight, but is essential to ensure a bright future for our great profession.

So what have I been doing so far? At our first meeting we hit the ground running, considering each of the recommendations of Vet Futures – Taking charge of our future and looking at where there were areas of mutual interest. So, for example, some of my health and wellbeing objectives have common ground with careers and education. We also identified some of the organisations and individuals who are likely to be key to progressing the work of Vet Futures.

The second meeting was an engaging day of presentations from August Equity, Defra, VSC and VDS. Representatives from each organisation gave their thoughts on the Vet Futures recommendations and suggested areas where they could develop ideas further and implement actions. Our discussion lasted well into the evening and we agreed that, while we might not have all the answers by July, we will certainly have a framework for action which will develop the answers.

Between the meetings I have been talking to many individuals and organisations, and, as meeting number three drew near, I began to feel the pressure a little. With the Vet Futures Summit fast approaching a tough morning was spent trying to thrash out how best to structure the big event. This gave me much food for thought and to be honest I have met so many people who would make excellent speakers that I have had a difficult time with the decision-making process.

I hope the wellbeing section of the Action Plan reflects the fantastic input from many willing volunteers keen to improve the future of our profession. I would like to thank everyone who has helped so far. It is never too late make your contribution to the future of our great profession: many hands make light work and the more we all get involved, the bigger the difference we will make.

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