Study pressures students’ biggest worry

Findings from this year’s British Veterinary Association (BVA)/Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) Survey 2016 (1.37MB PDF) indicate that the just under two-thirds (63%) of veterinary students are currently suffering or have suffered from stress whilst at university.

In the BVA/AVS Survey 2012, sponsored by Vets4Pets, also revealed that over a quarter (27%) of veterinary students are currently suffering from or have suffered from depression whilst at university. The majority of students who have suffered or are currently suffering from mental health issues (83%) claim their studies, including deadline pressures, contribute to or trigger these issues. Other contributions or triggers cited included:

  • Lack of free time (58%)
  • Relationship or family issues (44%)
  • Other financial worries (39%)
  • Stress of finding extra-mural studies (EMS) placements (34%)
  • The cost of EMS (23%)
  • Having to work as well as study (19%)
  • Other (10%)

However, university efforts to improve welfare support for students may be having an impact. Just under three quarters (71%) of survey respondents say they feel supported in terms of welfare and wellbeing by their university. In recent years, the veterinary profession has taken collective responsibility for mental wellbeing at every stage of a vet’s career, with a number of initiatives being available to help and support students. These range from the counselling and peer mentoring services available through individual universities to the confidential support offered by the independent charity Vetlife through its helpline, health support programme and fund for financial support.

Earlier this year BVA announced expansion of its support for young vets and the RCVS-led Mind Matters initiative aims to work with the Vet Futures project to identify how certain aspects of the way the profession is structured and run can exacerbate stress and mental health problems, starting with the experience of veterinary students.

The BVA/AVS survey also shows that there is a range of factors that affect students, including financial pressures. Over a third of veterinary students work part time to supplement their income and just under half of students say they usually have less funds than they need. Those with a shortfall estimate it to be around £1,231 per term on average.

Hannah Mason, President of the Association of Veterinary Students, said:

“There is no escaping that veterinary medicine is a challenging degree. On top of strenuous exams, holidays are filled with compulsory EMS making it hard to sustain part-time work which is often needed to supplement the expense of a five or six year degree. It is therefore no surprise that stress is a problem in the vet student population. The majority of vet students still report having suffered at some point during their degree. We now have various counselling services and peer support systems across the universities to help students to cope better. However, while it is important to have reactive strategies in place, we also need to examine the fundamental reasons why vet students are stressed and how we can prevent it from occurring.”

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“Any veterinary student feeling stressed, under pressure and unable to cope is one too many. The truth is that there will be pressure in the work we do and there will be times that we feel stressed. Veterinary medicine university courses are tough and that is reflected in studies being the number one contributor to mental health and wellbeing concerns in the survey. But as a veterinary family, we need to help our colleagues to cope from the earliest stages of their career and make the right resources available to them, along with creating the right kind of supportive culture. We also need to recognise and work on solutions for what can be a toxic mixture of a highly demanding course, little leisure time and huge financial pressure. It is the responsibility of everyone in the profession to nurture a robust, skilled, compassionate and happy new generation of vets.”

This article has been updated from an earlier version to reflect changes in methodology between the 2012 and 2016 surveys.

Outgoing BVA President emphasises strength of profession in changing times

The veterinary profession’s combined focus on animal welfare and outward looking perspective is enabling successes far beyond the sum of its parts, outgoing British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Sean Wensley said in his final speech in Bristol today (22 September).

Speaking at BVA’s annual Members’ Day, Mr Wensley outlined the roles vets and vet nurses can and do play “in addressing some of society’s most pressing challenges in the [human-animal age]” and the strategic and pragmatic actions BVA has taken this past year as “the world as moved on”.

Throughout his speech Mr Wensley reviewed a year of change, progress and success for BVA. On BVA’s landmark animal welfare strategy, which launched earlier this year, he said:

“There is an important truism: When an animal’s health is poor so is its welfare; but when an animal’s health is good its welfare may still be poor … In [our strategy] we conveyed our agreed ethical position as an animal welfare-focused progression. The strategy promotes collaborative veterinary advocacy for animals’ best interests.”

Mr Wensley spoke to many of the actions outlined by the jointly led BVA and RCVS Vet Futures project, including:

“Delivering an animal welfare strategy for the profession and developing strong veterinary representation and leadership are amongst the ambitions and actions laid out in the Vet Futures report, which launched in its action plan at the Vet Futures summit in July. Vet Futures also lays our path towards thriving, innovative veterinary businesses, career satisfaction and mental wellbeing. Vet Futures is triggering inspiring and forward-looking initiatives and activities within the profession.”

Mr Wensley outlined a number of BVA positions that have been developed on other animal welfare and ethical challenges during his Presidency as well as BVA’s role in representing the veterinary profession to promote responsible pet ownership to the wider public:

“We have been in the national media to provide our ethical justifications for veterinary treatment and private veterinary costs [and] we have spoken unequivocally in the national media about the many health harms of brachycephaly. Just a fortnight ago, after a five year campaign, we welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that it will ban performing wild animals in travelling circuses.”

On welfare at slaughter, Mr Wensley said:

“Our strong objection [to the WATOK Regulations], in association with the Veterinary Public Health Association, prompted a House of Lords debate. We conveyed our position that all abattoirs … should have mandatory CCTV and unrestricted access to footage by Veterunary surgeons. These campaign calls will continue.”

On disease surveillance, Mr Wensley said:

“We have repeatedly lobbied Ministers for the protection of essential disease surveillance and celebrated successes with decisions to retain threatened surveillance units in Inverness and Omagh. Meanwhile, working with our Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Branches, and specialist associations, we have encouraged and welcomed the roll-out of [a number of programmes] … issued advice for members … and secured national news coverage on seasonal risk[s].”

Mr Wensley highlighted antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as “one of the most pressing global issues” and shared with BVA members the interdisciplinary work BVA is doing to help tackle AMR.

On BVA’s recent governance Review, Mr Wensley said:

“Our new committee structure will be based on nimble, time-limited working groups. Veterinary specialists in animal welfare and ethics, as well as animal welfare scientists, will be seeded throughout these groups and represented on our policy committee. We have continued to put much effort in to developing strong working relations with our specialist and affiliated associations.”

On mental wellbeing, Mr Wensley commended supportive initiatives by BVA’s specialist divisions before adding:

“I was delighted that BVA could announce that we have now expanded our support and services to recent graduates, through the allocation of dedicated staff resource to the Young Vet Network, as well as funding support.

Of Brexit, Mr Wensley said:

“We acted swiftly to urge the Secretary of State and devolved Environment Ministers to protect the status of [non-British EU] vet and vet nurse colleagues who, we emphasised, are making invaluable contributions in essential areas. We have since held the first meeting of our Brexit working group [and] will ensure the veterinary voice is heard … wherever we can.”

Concluding his speech, Mr Wensley quoted BVA Past President Basil Buxton (1925) and reflected on BVA’s current role 90 years on:

“[BVA’s] ‘function is to … collect and to condense the numerous rays of individual opinion and to focus them in such a manner that the concentrated beam shall have greater force.’ I know Gudrun will maintain this sense of focus.”

UK governments respond to BVA calls over working rights of EU vets

Following the EU referendum result (24 June), BVA wrote to the Secretary of State and to Environment Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland requesting an early statement to the effect that non-British EU veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who are currently living, studying or working in the UK will continue to be able to do so in future.

Almost half of veterinary surgeons registering in the UK qualified from veterinary schools elsewhere in the EU, according to statistics from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

By mid-July the UK Government had made a statement to clarify that there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, as a result of the referendum. It also stated:

“When we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected.”

This week BVA has received replies directly from the Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland outlining that, while the rights of non-British EU citizens is not a devolved matter, their priority is to ensure the best outcome for their current constituents and acknowledging the importance of animal health and welfare.

The letter from Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, which was sent on behalf of Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP as well, outlined that:

“The First Minister is seeking guarantees from the UK Government that the residency status and other existing rights of the 173,000 EU citizens living in their respective countries will remain unchanged now and in the future.”

These points were echoed in the letter from Wales’ Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, who continued:

“The First Minister has also made it clear there are many sectors of business, which depend on EU citizens to fill vital posts and damage to public services and the wider economy would be immense if EU citizens were required to leave the country. I appreciate this could cause difficulties in relation to the veterinary profession and delivery of our Animal Health and Welfare programmes and policies in Wales.”

Similarly, the Northern Ireland Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Michelle McIlveen MLA, acknowledged the vital contributions EU citizens make to animal health and welfare and said:

“I will also endeavour, given the importance of animal and veterinary public health to the local economy, to ensure that this concern [you raise] is represented in the composite Northern Ireland input into the final United Kingdom negotiating position and strategy.”

The new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom MP, has offered to meet with BVA President Sean Wensley to discuss these and other priority issues for the veterinary profession.

BVA is establishing a Brexit working group to prioritise and develop policies on the key issues that should be raised in forthcoming discussions and negotiations. BVA also continues to work with the RCVS and other bodies regarding the implications of Brexit for the veterinary professions.

BVA members are being encouraged to share their feedback on BVA’s community forum under the dedicated ‘What do you think ‘Brexit’ could mean for the veterinary profession?’ thread and to take part in BVA’s bi-annual Voice of the Veterinary profession survey, which, this Autumn, will include questions on the immediate and projected impact of Brexit for the veterinary profession, and UK animal health and welfare.

BVA speaking up for veterinary profession during time of change

Following the EU referendum result on 24 June, BVA wrote to the then Secretary of State Liz Truss MP, and to Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, requesting an early statement to the effect that non-British EU vets and vet nurses who are currently living, studying or working in the UK will continue to be able to do so in future.

Almost half of veterinary surgeons registering in the UK qualified from veterinary schools elsewhere in the EU, according to statistics from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

This week the Government made a statement to clarify that there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, as a result of the referendum. It also stated:

“When we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected.”

In the letters to the Secretary of State and to other Ministers, BVA also sought reassurance for UK veterinary professionals working and studying in other EU member states.

As part of the new Prime Minister’s formation of her government, Andrea Leadsom has been appointed the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. BVA President Sean Wensley is writing to Andrea Leadsom MP to congratulate her on her appointment and to highlight priority issues for the veterinary profession. BVA will also be requesting an early meeting with the Secretary of State.

For further details about BVA’s activity since the EU referendum, please read the blog from BVA President Sean Wensley published in the days following the Brexit result.

Delegates engaged with shaping the future of the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions

The first Vet Futures Summit saw around 120 people gather at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden, London, to hear how the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) have set out a blueprint for the future of the veterinary surgeon and veterinary nursing professions.

The event, which took place on Monday 4 July, saw the release of the Vet Futures Action Plan 2016-2020, developed by the Vet Futures Action Group, which details how the RCVS and BVA intend to meet the 34 recommendations set out in last year’s Vet Futures Report.

Vet Futures summit photosThroughout the course of the Summit, many of the Action Group members reported to delegates on the specific areas that they were championing, covering topics such as technology and innovation, the future of veterinary education, career diversity, One Health, ethics and animal welfare, leadership, mental health and communicating the value of the profession.

Bradley Viner, RCVS President, said: “It was great to see such a wide range of delegates attending this event, including veterinary surgeons from a range of different areas, such as clinical practice, academia and industry, as well as veterinary students, veterinary nurses, other allied professionals and even people from very different backgrounds, such as psychologists and lawyers.

“The range of speakers and topics they covered were equally diverse – ranging from specialists in the psychology of relationships between clients and professionals, to graduate outcomes, to how we can better value the services offered by veterinary surgeons.

“Delegates were clearly very engaged, as demonstrated by the sheer amount of tweeting that took place over the course of the day and the amount of pledges of support they made and uploaded on Twitter as well.”

Every delegate was asked to vote for the seven priorities from the Action Plan that they thought were the most important. The three priorities that received the most votes were supporting the Mind Matters Initiative; developing a veterinary leadership programme; and starting a UK One Health coordination group.

Sean Wensley, BVA President, said: “We are committed to delivering all of the actions in the Vet Futures Action Plan but it was interesting and useful to obtain views from delegates on what their main priorities are.

“It is no surprise that support for the Mind Matters Initiative emerged as the number one priority. We are extremely ambitious for our professions with a clear desire to improve the health and wellbeing of animals, people and our environment through expanded One Health working, but we can only achieve everything we hope to if we are happy, healthy and fulfilled ourselves.

“The Summit also heard from international colleagues in the USA and Europe congratulating the UK on taking forward the Vet Futures initiative, a timely reminder of the need to maintain our outward-looking perspective and relationships with colleagues from across the globe.

“There was a fantastic forward-looking atmosphere at the Summit and a real sense of commitment to take things forward. It was particularly exciting to see the excellent progress made by the veterinary nursing profession in developing a clear action plan, which we fully support.”

The Summit also saw the launch of the VN Futures Report and Action Plan, the culmination of six months’ work from the VN Futures project, which sets out six broad ambitions with 31 recommendations for the veterinary nursing profession over the next five years. These ambitions are to create a sustainable workforce; develop structured and rewarding career paths; support a confident, resilient, healthy and well-supported workforce; take a proactive role in One Health; maximise the potential of nurses; and have a clarified and bolstered role for veterinary nurses via reform of Schedule 3 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act.

Liz Cox, Chair of RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council, launched the report alongside Sam Morgan, President of the BVNA. Liz said: “Our session certainly generated a lot of discussion amongst delegates who seemed very keen on our specific key recommendations such as forming a VN Schools Council, developing an advanced practitioner qualification and status for VNs and bolstering links with human-centred nursing under the One Health umbrella.”

Sam Morgan added: “I would recommend that every veterinary nurse reads the report and its recommendations and has a think about how they can help both the RCVS and the BVNA make them a reality. Now is the time for the profession to make its voice heard and take charge of its future.”

A specially-made animation about the VN Futures project was also launched during the sessions, along with the Vet Futures Action Plan and VN Futures Report and Action Plan.

Delegates made pledges on how they would support the Vet Futures and VN Futures projects throughout the course of the day and were encouraged to upload these to Twitter. To find these pledges, and more information from the day, please search for the hashtags #VetFutures and #VNFutures.

Videos from the day are available to view, along with pictures which can be downloaded from the RCVS Flickr account.

BVA urges UK governments to protect the status of vets and VNs in Brexit negotiations

Almost half of veterinary surgeons registering in the UK qualified from veterinary schools elsewhere in the EU.

Following the EU referendum (23 June), the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging UK governments to protect the status of EU veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who are currently living and working in the UK.

Almost half of veterinary surgeons registering in the UK qualified from veterinary schools elsewhere in the EU, according to statistics from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). To highlight the impact of the referendum outcome on the veterinary professions, BVA has written to the Secretary of State, Liz Truss MP, and to Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, requesting an early statement to the effect that non-British EU vets and vet nurses who are currently living, studying or working in the UK will continue to be able to do so in future. BVA is also seeking reassurance for UK veterinary professionals working and studying in other EU member states.

BVA President Sean Wensley said:

“It is not yet possible to comment on the reality of ‘Brexit’ since much will depend on forthcoming negotiations and the decisions that will be taken by the Government regarding, for example, whether or not to maintain existing EU legislation and rules. However, we recognise that these unanswered questions are having a profound impact on many of our members – particularly members who are non-British EU citizens, or have family members who are, and members who work alongside colleagues from other European Member States.”

In the letters, Mr Wensley stated:

“I am sure there are many significant issues that your Department needs to consider [and] given the profound personal impact that the uncertainty caused by the referendum outcome is having on some of our members, we wanted to contact you at the earliest opportunity. In the forthcoming negotiations about the future relationship between the UK and the EU, we strongly urge you to make the case for all EU citizens and EU-qualified veterinary surgeons and nurses to have ongoing rights to live, work and study in the UK.”

In the letter to the Northern Ireland (NI) Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen MLA, the BVA President and BVA NI Branch President Seamus O’Kane highlighted NI’s land border with EU member state the Republic of Ireland and called for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area to facilitate movement in an all-island context for both work and study purposes.

Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses from other EU member states are invaluable members of practice teams across the UK and work across all areas of veterinary science, including the fields of animal health and welfare, animal disease surveillance, scientific research and education, wildlife conservation, and public health and food safety. Figures from the Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) estimate that over 90 per cent of vets in meat hygiene services are non-British EU citizens.

Commenting on the potential impact of Brexit on veterinary surgeons working in the public health sector, VPHA President Lewis Grant said:

“Due to the particular focus on public health in many European veterinary degree courses, EU vets make an enormous contribution to both public health and animal health and welfare in the UK – often behind closed doors, monitoring and protecting public health in Approved Premises as well as welfare at slaughter to ensure slaughterhouses meet the standards that are required by law and expected by the public. Without their input and expertise, it would be difficult to ensure that Statutory requirements within the food industry are complied with.”

BVA is working with the RCVS and other bodies to discuss the implications of Brexit for the veterinary professions, and the key issues that should be raised in forthcoming discussions and negotiations.

BVA members are being encouraged to share their feedback on BVA’s community forum under the dedicated ‘What do you think ‘Brexit’ could mean for the veterinary profession?’ thread.

Statement on the outcome of the EU Referendum

Following a referendum, the majority of the UK has voted to leave the EU.

President of the British Veterinary Association Sean Wensley said:

“The UK’s decision to leave the European Union will have a significant impact on matters of interest to the veterinary profession, particularly in relation to regulation, education, and workforce planning, but also in terms of animal welfare, research, surveillance, and animal movements.

“BVA will work hard to ensure the voice of the veterinary profession is heard during the negotiation and discussions that will now begin, in order to secure the best possible outcomes for our profession and for animal health and welfare in the UK. The Vet Futures report provides an excellent summary of issues we need to consider in those discussions, and the Vet Futures Action Plan, due to be launched at the Vet Futures Summit on 4 July, outlines key initiatives that we need to take forward, albeit with revised timelines while the full impact of Brexit is determined.

“BVA will retain an outward looking and inclusive perspective through our relationships with international partners, including the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), Commonwealth Veterinary Association (CVA) and World Veterinary Association (WVA) to ensure the UK veterinary profession continues to influence and engage on cross border issues such as disease surveillance, veterinary medicines and antimicrobial resistance.”

President of the RCVS, Dr Bradley Viner, added:

“We note that the results of the referendum are to leave the European Union and will now be closely following the negotiations between our Government and the EU.

“These negotiations are expected to take a minimum of two years. It is difficult to say at this stage how the vote will affect current arrangements, such as the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive (MRPQ) that allows European vets to practise in the UK and vice-versa, and it is likely to be some time before we know.

“Needless to say, we will be working with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to minimise any disruption from the transition process. As always, we will work to maintain and increase the UK’s high standards of veterinary care and animal welfare.”

Ahead of the referendum BVA produced a BVA briefing document on a wide range of matters of interest to the veterinary profession, including workforce issues and freedom of movement, funding for surveillance, disease eradication and R&D, veterinary medicines, and legislation on animal health and welfare and public health. Although it is expected that there to be a degree of uncertainty on the detail for some time, all of these issues will form part of our discussions.

To help answer queries and concerns, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is compiling a list of frequently asked questions on the impact of the EU referendum for the veterinary profession.

BVA President welcomes new training hub for Wales’ future vets at annual Welsh Dinner

The new Aberystwyth/Royal Veterinary College training hub will help prepare “Wales’ vets of tomorrow” with the right training, skills and knowledge for their varied roles and responsibilities – the impact of which extends well beyond animal health and welfare – said the British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Sean Wensley in his speech at BVA’s annual Welsh Dinner on Tuesday (21 June).

Addressing the dinner’s 70 guests from the Welsh Assembly, animal health and welfare organisations and senior members of the veterinary profession at Cardiff City Hall, Mr Wensley said:

A new hub of veterinary expertise and excellence is an exciting initiative that brings together the right resources to deliver a range of potential training opportunities to Wales’ vets of tomorrow. There are of course both risks and opportunities in increasing the number of veterinary undergraduate courses – particularly in ensuring that there are good clinical career prospects for graduates – but this hub will help safeguard animal health; promote animal welfare; and better support the farmers and other animal owners we work with across Wales.”

Mr Wensley highlighted the significant individual role that vets can, and must, play in discussing antimicrobial resistance (AMR):

“One of the greatest challenges to both animal and human health is the threat of antimicrobial resistance. AMR is a top priority for BVA and we welcomed the [O’Neill] report recommendations … To tackle AMR it is imperative that human and animal health organisations work together at strategic and individual levels. We all recognise that tackling AMR will require us to continue ‘thinking globally’ and ‘acting locally.’ As such, vets at the heart of communities across Wales are well-placed to help achieve a globally responsible Wales – and support many of the other ambitions laid out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act.”

Throughout his speech, which drew on the policy recommendations outlined in BVA’s manifesto for Wales 2016 – 2021, Mr Wensley shared examples of vets’ “on-the-ground insight and expertise”, including the effective delivery of vital official veterinarian (OV) services, while also emphasising that vets could do even more to help progress some of Wales’ pioneering schemes:

“The Cymorth TB pilot is just one example of where vets’ valued role in knowledge transfer was able to offer support to farmers suffering a TB breakdown. Cymorth TB was rolled out across Wales in November and we strongly encourage veterinary surgeons to access the government subsidised training places.”

With Wales’ quarterly TB data showing the number of herds under restriction at its lowest level in 10 years, Mr Wensley acknowledged the ongoing work of Wales’ Chief Veterinary Officer, Professor Christianne Glossop, and her team while also calling on the Welsh Government to review its TB eradication programme:

“This is welcome news … but we do know that TB statistics can fluctuate, which is why we’re continuing to urge the government to reconsider its eradication programme to include the targeted and humane culling of badgers, by means of cage trapping and shooting only, particularly in light of the suspension of the badger vaccination programme.”
Vets’ unique opportunity and responsibility to advocate animals’ best interests at national, community and individual levels was emphasised as Mr Wensley discussed BVA’s animal welfare strategy, which launched earlier this year. He said:

“We are proud to be involved in pivotal partnership working like the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group … Alongside partnership, we need pragmatism. Where there are opportunities to improve animal welfare we must take them … There is currently very little non-stun slaughter carried out in Wales but, while it is permitted under the EU derogation, the government should reduce the welfare harm of non-stun slaughter by introducing better labelling, to ensure non-stun products are not sold unlabelled on supermarket shelves, [and] mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses. CCTV can only aid animal welfare at slaughter if OVs have full and unrestricted access to footage as independent monitors.”

Mr Wensley recognised the many animal health and welfare successes that Wales has led the way on – including the Control of Horses (Wales) Act, the Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations and the production of a code of practice on the use of snares for fox control – noting the key role of BVA’s Welsh Branch in achieving influence and engagement in Wales.

While Mr Wensley’s speech concluded with a “look ahead” and the BVA/RCVS Vet Futures project, which maps out where the veterinary profession would like to be on the 2030 horizon, he paid tribute to leading vets of today including BVA Past President, Dr. Peter Harlech Jones, who this year was awarded the royal appointment of High Sheriff of Gwynedd.

The new Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, who was appointed last month following the Welsh Assembly elections, responded to Mr Wensley’s speech.

Helen Ballantyne

Blog asks if veterinary nurses are strong enough advocates for the profession

A new blog has been published on the Vet Futures website asking if veterinary nurses are being strong enough advocates for the profession.

The article is written by Helen Ballantyne who is both a veterinary nurse and a medical nurse and also a member of the VN Futures Action Group. VN Futures, which is run jointly between the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and was launched earlier this year, aims to draw up a blueprint for the future of the veterinary nursing profession.

In her blog Helen argues that, while veterinary nurses have always been strong advocates for animal welfare and patient care, they have not always advocated the profession in such a strong way. She posits several reasons why this might be the case including it being seen, historically, as a ‘subservient’ role, the fact that the vast majority of the profession are women, the profession’s relatively young age, busyness, and the fact that veterinary nurses may not necessarily know where to turn for advocacy.

However, she says this is all beginning to change: “There are clear barriers to engagement and yet, there is a change in the air.  In the past, debating sessions have been hosted at BVNA Congress, a forum in which experts were brought together to initiate discussion on various issues. For several years it was poorly attended, there were a few voices, a titter of applause and then the room would empty.  Last year, feeling that the time might be right, the session was reintroduced and the debate on small animal nutrition that ensued was energetic, knowledgeable and passionate.  It showed that veterinary nurses have started speak, to use their knowledge and expertise to form valid relevant opinions.

“This year the RCVS announced an increase in the number of candidates standing for its VN Council showing that more members of the profession want to speak out. Each year the BVNA sees more and more of the profession work on projects for Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month in May.

“This means that each year the word spreads among the general public that veterinary nurses are not just ‘a cheaper substitute vet’ or an ‘aspiring vet’ but a professional member of the team with different responsibilities to the veterinary surgeons.”

She encourages veterinary nurses to use the VN Futures project as an opportunity to stand up and be counted and help influence the future of the profession adding: “It’s time to get involved, it’s time to get interested, for ourselves and for our patients. For if we don’t speak, then we lose the right to say ‘our profession’. It’s time to stand taller and speak louder, because crucially, there are people listening.”

Members of the profession who would like to contribute to the project can attend the upcoming VN Futures roadshow meeting at Edinburgh Napier University on Wednesday 11 May or either of the two upcoming Regional Question Times which take place in Nottingham and Cardiff on Tuesday 17 May and Tuesday 31 May respectively. To attend any of these events visit

The VN Futures Action Group will also be launching its Action Plan at the Vet Futures Summit on Monday 4 July 2016. Tickets to this event cost £20 each and can be ordered at

Any veterinary nurses, or other members of the practice team, who wish to comment on the blog can do so by visiting where there will also be a poll to answer asking whether veterinary nurses are strong advocates for the profession.



Vet Futures Summit

Join us on 4 July for our Vet Futures Summit, a day of discussion and debate at the Royal Veterinary College in London.

The Summit will include the launch of the Vet Futures and VN Futures Action Plans, ambitious blueprints which aim to deliver the continued sustainability of the veterinary professions.

The day’s talks will cover such varied subjects as animal health and welfare, veterinary careers, sustainable businesses, One Health, leadership and vets’ wider roles in society.

The event is the latest milestone in the Vet Futures project, undertaken jointly by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association, and follows the publication in November 2015 of the Vet Futures report, Taking charge of our future: a vision for the veterinary profession for 2030, The Report identified 34 specific recommendations and, since publication, the Vet Futures Action Group has been working to turn these recommendations into the Action Plan. Meanwhile, the VN Futures project has come into being and will showcase its own Action Plan at the Summit.



Unfortunately, tickets for the Vet Futures Summit are now sold out. To add your name to a waiting list, please visit Eventbrite.