VN Futures site launch promo

Dedicated website launched to showcase the VN Futures project

As a fitting tribute to this year’s Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month, a new website dedicated to showcasing the work of the VN Futures project has today (Friday 29 May 2020) been launched.

VN Futures was launched as a joint Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) project in 2016, associated with, but separate from, the Vet Futures project and with a focus on identifying, and finding solutions to, some of the specific issues facing the veterinary nursing profession.

It includes information on activities such as the development of the Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Nursing qualification, the School Ambassadors Project (currently in abeyance due to COVID-19) and several case studies that demonstrate the wide variety of careers open to veterinary nurses.

Racheal MarshallRacheal Marshall, Chair of the VN Futures Board (pictured right), said: “Since its launch in 2016, the VN Futures project has been doing a great deal of work to meet its aims and so enhance and bolster the veterinary nursing profession. It is fantastic that, with the new website, all its work and major projects are featured in the same place, with its own distinct identity.

“While much of the work of the project has been going on behind the scenes, there have been some distinct achievements for us to celebrate, not least the Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Nursing, which paves the way for Advanced Veterinary Nurse status, and the work that’s been undertaken to clarify Schedule 3 and help veterinary professionals navigate how it works in practice.”

Jo Hinde, President of the BVNA, added: “We are very glad that we were able to launch this website just as another wonderful VN Awareness Month comes to a close as it really does highlight the breadth, depth and diversity of options open to veterinary nurses. I hope that those who visit the website can draw their own inspiration from the case studies in terms of their career paths and how they might want to develop and enhance their role as a veterinary nurse.

“We also hope that those reading the website might be inspired to get involved – whether that’s through writing a blog with their views on a topical issue, having their career profiled for one of our case studies, or registering an interest in one of the Working Groups that are working to deliver on the VN Futures Action Plan.”

To get involved in the VN Futures project or to contribute to the website contact Jill Macdonald, VN Futures Project Manager, on jill@vnfutures.org.uk

Speakers at the ViVet Symposium 2019

Second ViVet Symposium explores future of veterinary medicine

Last week the biennial ViVet Innovation Symposium was held, bringing together veterinary professionals and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to discuss the evolving role of the veterinary professional and the advancements in both companion and production animal care in the UK and across the world.

The symposium, held on Tuesday 1 October at the Lowry in Manchester, focused on precision veterinary medicine. It looked at how the growth of data driven practice and rapidly developing technology such as real-time low-cost genomics, artificial intelligence and big data will affect the veterinary professions, how their role might change and the opportunities available.

Featuring a wide range of inspirational speakers, the day explored the potential of emerging technology to improve the lives of veterinary professionals and the services they provide. The keynote speaker, Nancy Rademaker, opened the day’s presentations with a thought-provoking talk on how technology has changed customer behaviour and how the profession must adapt to the ‘new normal’ in order to thrive. Nancy highlighted that the customer is looking for transparency, personalisation, convenience and speed and the challenges this presents for every sector.

The day covered three broad themes, the first of which honed in on how technology such as big data and artificial intelligence (AI) will fundamentally change the role of the veterinary professional. With medical knowledge expanding exponentially, many of the presentations touched on the increasing importance of veterinary professionals using tools such AI to augment their intelligence and harnessing data insights. With so much data available to us, it is now about knowing what to do with it and how to transform insights into innovative action.

The second theme that was covered throughout the day was the complex interaction between innovation and regulation. Innovation is the mechanism through which products and services improve, but it carries a degree of risk as it involves novel and potentially untested products, services and ways of working – here lies the regulatory challenge.

“Daniel Berman, Lead of the Global Health Team at NESTA, spoke about how ‘anticipatory regulation’, quickly becoming recognised as best practice, is one way to approach this regulatory challenge. This is about regulators, such as the RCVS, taking a proactive approach to innovation, engaging stakeholders about the issues it raises and seeking to create future-proof frameworks which, in rapidly changing environments, will protect the public whilst at the same time as fostering innovation,” says Anthony Roberts, RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation.

“This is in line with the aims of the ViVet project: to prepare the profession for the impact of innovation whilst at the same time allowing the College to reflect on the future relevance of its regulation.”

The final key theme of the day focused on changing consumer demands and the opportunities and threats that these create for the veterinary professions. In particular, it was highlighted that today customers expect a quick, convenient and personalised service.

This creates a challenge for veterinary professions, who must navigate a complex tripartite relationship of vet, client and animal. Much discussion was held, therefore, on the need to find a balance between being customer-centric and keeping the animal health and welfare at the centre of what veterinary professionals do. This nuance was the focus of the day’s ‘Future of the Professions debate’ with informed arguments presented for both side of the motion: ‘In order to thrive the veterinary professions must become truly ‘customer-centric’.

At the close of the debate the majority of delegates voted in favour for the motion, with general agreement that focusing on meeting the customers’ need and wants must be balanced with the interests of the animal.

“It was a really positive and engaging day and the symposium provoked some exciting debate and discussion as to the opportunities the future holds for the veterinary professions, the role of the veterinary professional going forward, and how we collectively can drive this forward,” says Anthony.

ViVet Symposium 2019 also held the final of the Student Veterinary Innovation Competition, which saw three finalist teams present their innovative veterinary proposals in front of a panel of industry professionals. The winning team was Christina Ratcliffe and Ana Almeida-Warren from Liverpool University with a presentation of their VetCase app concept. The concept, a case-based learning app, would include clinical examinations and diagnostic test functionality to reflect real-life situations and help students prepare for working in the veterinary industry.

The symposium was recorded on the day and videos, along with a write-up of the day, will be available soon on the ViVet website.

RCVS outlines plan for ‘under care’ review

The RCVS is today (13 September 2019) publishing further details about its plans for a wide-ranging review of its guidance to the veterinary professions on ‘under care’ and out-of-hours emergency cover, including a broad timetable for the review’s three key phases of evidence gathering, policy drafting, and public consultation.

The review, announced earlier this year, was recommended to RCVS Council by its Standards Committee following its lengthy and detailed exploration of the implications of new technologies for both animal health and welfare and veterinary regulation. The main areas under consideration include the provision of 24-hour emergency cover and the interpretation and application of an animal being under the care of a veterinary surgeon.

The initial stages of this review had been drafted for Standards Committee to consider at its meeting on 9 September, where the outline timetable was also discussed. Commenting on its significance, Standards Committee Chair Melissa Donald, said:

“This is set to become one of our most fundamental reviews of RCVS guidance in recent years.

“Considering the complexity of the issues in question, and their importance to animal owners and the professions alike, it is vital that we allow ourselves enough time to ensure this review is as thorough and comprehensive as possible.

“We have a clear responsibility to seek, understand and, where we can, accommodate the opinions and experiences of as many different people from within and around the professions and the public as possible. I would urge my fellow vets and vet nurses to please find some time to consider these issues very carefully over the coming weeks and months, and to send us their views.”

The review will comprise several key stages and is expected to take around 12 months to complete. The outline timetable, which may be subject to change, is as follows:

  • October – January: six-week Call for Evidence, followed by independent qualitative analysis of all evidence received
  • February – March: Select Committee-style meetings and independent qualitative analysis of additional evidence gathered [NB this stage is subject to Standards Committee requirements, depending on the evidence gathered.]
  • April – June: Consider all evidence and draft any new policy
  • July – August: six-week public consultation on draft policy
  • September – October: independent review of consultation responses, and production of any proposals for change
  • November: Finalise any proposals for change and publish any new guidance.

To support and promote the various stages of the review the College is also planning a programme of stakeholder engagement, and will also provide regular updates on progress to both Council and the wider profession.

Members of the professions and the public will be able to follow the progress of the review via its dedicated webpage.  

VN Futures logo

VN Futures project attends inaugural SVN Fest

The work and aims of the VN Futures project were highlighted last weekend as part of the inaugural Student Veterinary Nurse (SVN) Fest which took place at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in Camden.

Jill Macdonald, Project Manager for the joint RCVS and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) initiative, and Julie Dugmore, our Director of Veterinary Nursing, attended the event on Saturday 20 July 2019.

The aim was to help nurses who are entering the profession learn more about the project and how they could get involved. Jill also spoke to those attending about the three key areas of focus for the project over the next few months, these being: maximizing the role and value of VNs in practice; educating the next generation on the possibilities of a career in veterinary nursing including promotion of diversity; and researching and developing the district or community nursing role.

Jill Macdonald commented: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to attend the first SVN Fest and talk to the next generation of our profession about why it is so important they take an interest in and contribute to their future via the project.

“We were pleased to see that many of the students were aware of the VN Futures project thanks to its well-known supporters such as Louise Northway, who spoke about the project during her keynote speech.

“We also took along a game which tested the delegates’ knowledge of Schedule 3 and delegation, which led to many interesting conversations around how delegation happens in practice and what sort of tasks veterinary nurses can undertake.

“Furthermore, we are currently looking for student veterinary nurses to join VN Future’s ‘Creating a Sustainable Workforce’ Working Group for their vital input in developing veterinary nursing career materials, running a schools’ ambassadors pilot and encouraging increased diversity in the profession. It was fantastic how much interest there was in getting involved and we will now be following up to increase student veterinary nurse participation in this area.”

The VN Futures project is aiming to attend similar events over the coming two years to engage the profession, increase awareness of the project’s work and to improve understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the profession.

If you are interested in getting involved in VN Futures, or if you wish to invite someone to visit your practice or event to talk about the project, you can contact Jill Macdonald on jill@vnfutures.org.

RCVS showcases 12 inspiring veterinary leaders at Royal College Day

At Royal College Day 2019 – the RCVS’ Annual General Meeting and Awards Ceremony – a showcase of 12 inspiring veterinary leaders from a variety of backgrounds, roles, disciplines, and career stages was launched.

A video featuring interviews with the 12 veterinary leaders was unveiled by Amanda Boag in her final speech as RCVS President, reflecting the strong emphasis that she has put on the need for all members of the veterinary team to develop everyday leadership skills, as part of the RCVS Leadership initiative, during her presidential year.

The Leadership initiative itself was formally launched in April 2018 which was followed by the creation of a popular online leadership course, developed in conjunction with FutureLearn and the NHS Leadership Academy.

Speaking of the latest development in the Leadership initiative, Amanda said: “Vet professionals are almost invariably all leaders, but we are not always good at recognising and promoting this. The RCVS wants to celebrate leaders from across the vet and vet nursing professions, including both those leading every day in their workplaces, as well as those in traditional leadership roles. We want to highlight our qualities as both people and professionals, and emphasise the need to recognise these qualities and, through that, give us all the confidence to take up leadership roles.

“A few years ago, the RCVS began work with the British Veterinary Association on the Vet Futures project to identify where we are now, and where we want to be in 2030. Leadership development was identified as an area that we have not necessarily been brilliant at as a profession. More worryingly, there was evidence that some vets, particularly younger ones, do not see themselves as leaders, or feel comfortable with that term.

“In our selection of these 12 veterinary leaders we have shown that leadership is not something that belongs only to those who are senior, or those who wear a fancy chain of office around their neck. We believe leadership is something that is ongoing, and something that can be demonstrated at any stage of a career.

“We want young vets to know what good leadership looks like, and have the confidence to call things out when they are not right. Vets and vet nurses care a great deal about what they do, and this is the time for us to stand up, value ourselves, and tell ourselves and others that we can all lead in important ways.

“I am very proud that one of my last acts as President is to launch this showcase and I hope that other members of the profession find the diverse stories and experiences contained therein as exciting as I do.”

The 12 people who have been showcased as part of the initiative are:

  • Sarah Colegrave, a clinical director of a small animal practice in King’s Lynn who uses leadership to develop her team’s talents;
  • Professor Liz Mossop, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Development and Engagement at the University of Lincoln who talks about the importance of mentoring;
  • RCVS President Niall Connell, who talks about how a life-changing illness has lead him towards leadership roles;
  • Gemma Irwin-Porter, who leads a team of tutors providing pastoral care for student veterinary nurses at the University of Bristol;
  • Hatti Smart, a student veterinary surgeon who is playing a leadership role in the veterinary LGBT+ community;
  • VN Council member Matthew Rendle, who talks about the importance of everyday kindness in leading others;
  • Sam Joseph from StreetVet, who talks about how the plight of the homeless and their animals led to the foundation of the life-changing programme;
  • University of Nottingham PhD student Bobby Hyde who talks about the importance of good communication, even when it comes to complex topics;
  • Richard Artingstall, clinical director at a Gloucestershire referral centre, who talks about the links between leading a practice, and hands-on clinical work;
  • Victoria Fyfe, a veterinary nurse based near Durham who leads and inspires her practice team to engage with the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme;
  • Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the Royal Agricultural University talks about the importance of vision and strategy in leadership; and,
  • Ross Allan, a partner at a Glasgow-based veterinary hospital focuses on how vets can take the lead in controlling their own destinies.

The full video for the showcase and a digital copy of the booklet featuring 12 in-depth interviews with the inspiring veterinary leaders can be found on the campaign’s dedicated webpage.

ViVet launches new innovation events

Registration is now open for the inaugural RCVS ViVet Innovation Evening, an evening of discussion about the latest technological and innovation trends in the veterinary sphere, and networking in Edinburgh.

The veterinary meet up is being held on Tuesday 6 August 2019 from 19.00-21.00 at The University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) Vet School and is the first in a series of UK-wide ViVet Innovation Evenings.

The evening is for veterinary professionals who want to grow their knowledge, network and innovation skill set through learning from and connecting with peers in the local area. It aims to provide attendees with a chance to fast-track both their own personal career growth and their practices’ transformative journey as innovation and new technology start to change how veterinary services are being delivered in the UK.

Anthony Roberts, RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation, will start by speaking about how rapidly developing technology is transforming the veterinary profession and our role in driving innovation.

Following this, Professor David Argyle, Dean of Veterinary Medicine and Head of School, and Professor Richard Mellanby, Head of Companion Animal Sciences, will provide an overview of the technologies and innovation being developed at the Easter Bush Campus.

“We are delighted to be launching these evenings which will support the wider aims of ViVet, to continue to accelerate innovation in the veterinary professions and sector. To put veterinary professionals at the centre of innovation in the animal health sector, it is important to bring people together to share ideas and grow our collective knowledge,” says Anthony.

The event is free and participants can register on Eventbrite. Refreshments and finger food will be available from 19.00 as part of the event.

Space is limited and we recommend booking in advance to secure a place.

Over the remainder of the year, more ViVet Innovation Evenings will take place across the UK. Details on these will be shared on the ViVet website and Eventbrite page.

VN Futures Board

VN Futures Board appoints new Chair and reports on progress

The VN Futures Board, which oversees and sets priorities for the VN Futures initiative, met for the fourth time, in June, at the Kennel Club’s main offices in London to discuss the continuing delivery of the project.

The VN Futures project was launched by the RCVS and the BVNA at the beginning of 2016 to identify and draw up solutions to some of the specific issues facing the veterinary nursing profession. In July 2016 we published the VN Futures Report and Action Plan which set out 31 actions under 6 broad strategic aims.

In order to follow up these actions 6 working groups were formed to look at the broad strategic areas and, in June 2018, we set up a VN Futures Board to help coordinate and oversee the work of these groups. The Board comprises the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council Chair and Vice-Chair, Racheal Marshall and Liz Cox, and the BVNA President and Vice-President, Wendy Nevins and Jo Hinde.

Discussions at the meeting on 19 June included a review of the first 12 months under the Chair of BVNA President Wendy Nevins, and appointment of Racheal Marshall as the new Board Chair.

Wendy Nevins commented: “In its first 12 months, the VNF Board has really got to grips with the direction and legacy of the VN Futures initiative. The clarity and direction it has brought is reinvigorating the Working Groups. The next 12 months will see a real focus on delivery of the original findings of the VFN Futures initiative.”

The VN Futures initiative is nearly 3 years into its original 5-year life span and the Board also agreed plans will be put in place to communicate the gains that have been delivered through the initiative. So far these have included the development of 2 new Diplomas in Advanced Veterinary Nursing, more resources to help both VNs and vets navigate Schedule 3 and publication of career case studies to demonstrate the diverse roles available in the profession.

Wendy added: “The VN Futures project has a fixed 5-year horizon to make sure we keep focus on what the profession said it wanted – and needed – to be delivered. At the end it will be for the profession to decide how well this has been done – and what comes next.”

The Board also confirmed plans to have a presence at the Royal Veterinary College’s Student Veterinary Nurse Fest this summer as well as events at the BVNA Congress in October and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress in April 2020.

Racheal Marshall said: “The energy and life of the VN Futures initiative comes from veterinary nurses so we are excited to be taking this back out to meet nurses and ask them for their thoughts and comments on how these issues – like career progression, further qualifications, and emerging agendas like One Health – matter to them. We are really looking forward to a busy program of congress events to hear from people!”

New VN career case studies published

To observe the end of the British Veterinary Nursing Association’s Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month, we have published a suite of new blogs and a VN Futures Board update.

VN Futures is a joint initiative, from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), that aims to help the veterinary nursing profession visualise future challenges and how best to respond to them to promote and ensure a vibrant and sustainable profession into the future.

The new blogs cover veterinary nursing career case studies and aim to highlight differing career pathways available to veterinary nurses. Three new career cases have been recently added, from Carl Rudkin, an oncology nurse at Davies Veterinary Specialists; Samantha Thomson, a clinical nursing manager at North Downs Veterinary Referrals; and Claire Speight (pictured), a head nurse at Vets4Pets Kettering.

“The veterinary nursing profession offers many opportunities for career progression, and the case studies, from veterinary nurses in a wide variety of different roles, are a great way to help nurses find more about the diverse career pathways available,” says VN Futures Project Manager Jill Macdonald.

One of the new career case studies interviews Claire Speight who is Head Nurse at Kettering Vets4Pets and, in addition to working in practice, regularly lectures to veterinary nurses, students and members of the public on rabbit medicine and surgery. The case study covers what Claire enjoys about her job as well as what she finds challenging. It also looks at how she achieved her current position and her plans for the future.

Claire says that what she enjoys about her job is “working with the best team and all the lovely animals and clients we meet every day. Each day is different – you just never know what will walk through the door. When you have been involved in a case and watching the patient reunited with their owner, knowing you have helped to achieve that.”

Read Claire’s full story.

In addition to the blogs, there is also a section offering an introduction to the VN Futures Board members, appointed in May 2018; and an update on a recent meeting, available on the website. The Board report progress on the VN Futures initiative with a notable achievement being the approval of the Post-registration Qualifications Framework by VN Council earlier this month. The framework was created from the work carried out by the VN Futures Post Registration Qualifications Working Group, and will offer the opportunity for nurses to study for an Advanced Certificate in Veterinary Nursing.

The Board has also formalised the working groups around key themes from the 2016 VN Futures report.

“The Working Groups are where the real work and delivery of the VN Futures initiative lives. We are fortunate to be able to draw upon a breadth of talent and diversity of interests. This is a timely refresh of the membership of our Working Groups ensuring members are available and willing to help progress these important matters,” a spokesperson said.

Read the full Board update.

Contact details for those wishing to get involved in the VN Futures initiative can be found online.

‘Precision veterinary medicine’ the theme for second ViVet Innovation Symposium

The RCVS landmark innovation initiative ViVet will focus on how rapidly developing technology and data-driven practice will transform the veterinary professions and the care they provide for its second-ever Innovation Symposium this autumn.

The ViVet Innovation Symposium takes place on 1 October at The Lowry Theatre in Salford, Greater Manchester, and will see a number of guest speakers explore, with delegates, how artificial intelligence (AI), big data and genomics are and will be changing the profession by putting more information in the hands of the veterinary practitioner than ever before.

The ViVet programme grew out of the joint RCVS and British Veterinary Association (BVA) Vet Futures project which had, as one of its core aims, the establishment of a project to help encourage veterinary innovation and entrepreneurship and, through case studies and thought leadership, help the profession understand and thrive in the changing environment.

To this end, this year’s keynote speaker will be Nancy Rademaker, an IT professional with first-hand experiences straight from the places where technology is shaping our future. She will cover the impact of digitization on customer behavior and how that affects the way organisations should interact with customers while giving insights into how the veterinary professions can prepare for and thrive in the future.

Nancy has over 20 years of experience in how technology is transforming society, working for different IT companies, amongst which five years for Microsoft in the Netherlands and Europe. She loves to share her passion for technology and combines that valuable inside information with her experience in training and education.

Other speakers confirmed for the day include:

  • Kathy Turner, Corporate Vice President and General Manager for IDEXX Laboratories’ Europe, Middle East and Africa Companion Animal Commercial Operations who will be speaking about changing customer attitudes and preventative veterinary medicine.
  • Matthew Smith, Director of Business Development at Microsoft, who will be speaking about AI and agriculture.
  • Iain Maclaren, Senior Market Development Manager in Agrigenomics, Food and Consumer Genomics at Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd who will be speaking about low-cost and accessible genomic sequencing.

During the course of the event we will also be hosting the ViVet Student Veterinary Innovation Competition final, which sees three finalist teams going head to head presenting in front of a panel of industry professionals including BVA President Simon Doherty.

Anthony Roberts, RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation, said: “Since our inaugural innovation symposium in 2017, innovation and technology adoption in the wider animal health and welfare sector has accelerated. In the longer term it is clear that technology will fundamentally change the role of the vet and how veterinary services are delivered.

“It is ViVet’s role to ensure veterinary professionals can navigate this transition and remain at the centre of animal health and welfare. It does this by providing insights as to what the future could look like, and supporting veterinary professionals to develop the skills they need to take charge of and to shape that future, by leading innovation.

“This event provides an extraordinary opportunity for any vet or veterinary nurse who wants to understand how to adapt and use these new developments, learn about precision veterinary medicine, what it means for the future of veterinary care, and learn about new roles for vets being produced by these changes.”

Tickets for the event can be secured through the Innovation Symposium’s dedicated Eventbrite page with discounted tickets available for veterinary students and veterinary nurses.

More information about the ViVet project, as well as videos and reports from the 2017 Innovation Symposium at which the project was launched, can be found on the project’s dedicated website.

VN Futures Board

VN Futures Board reports progress

The new VN Futures Board met for the third time at BSAVA Congress in early April where discussions included the formalization of working groups around key themes from the 2016 VN Futures report.

A spokesperson said:

“The Working Groups are where the real work and delivery of the VN Futures initiative lives. We are fortunate to be able to draw upon a breadth of talent and diversity of interests. This is a timely refresh of the membership of our Working Groups ensuring members are available and willing to help progress these important matters.”

Several vacancies have arisen and so the VN Futures Board is calling for interested and experienced nurses to contact them if they are interested in getting involved.

The VNF Board also discussed communications and keeping the profession up to date with progress on the VNF initiative, the work of the Board and the achievements of the Working Groups. Notable achievements to date include the emerging Post Registration Qualifications Framework.

A spokesperson said:

“It is exciting to hear exactly what is happening when you are so close to the project – but for many this is not the case. We have to let people know this has not gone cold or lost momentum and that real improvements are being worked on.”

Efforts discussed included: providing a calendar of forward activities and events, promoting the VNF work amongst students and staff art HE and FE institutions. The Board also recognized the importance of developing key messages and engaging through social media.