Be part of #TheBigPicture with Graduate Outcomes Consultation

On 15 November 2018 the RCVS launched one of its most ambitious consultations yet regarding the future of veterinary education and how the profession can better help support veterinary graduates through the transition into life in practice.

Launching at the London Vet Show 2018 with a call to be part of #TheBigPicturethe Graduate Outcomes Consultation asks for the views of all veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, veterinary students and other stakeholders in a broad range of areas related to how veterinary students are educated and trained, and how recent graduates are prepared and supported into life in practice.

Professor Stephen May (pictured), RCVS Senior Vice-President and Chair of the Graduate Outcomes Working Group which developed the consultation, said: “For some time it has been apparent that there is often a mismatch between the way that veterinary students are educated and their expectations of life in practice, and the realities which they encounter. This can often lead to problems with mental health and wellbeing and therefore recruitment and retention.

“This is not unique to the UK. Veterinary educators around the world are recognising the dangers of ‘knowledge overload’ as veterinary students are exposed to more and more advances in technical and scientific knowledge, in an ever-wider range of areas, which has made the development of crucial professional skills such as communication, decision-making, ethics and reflection more of a challenge within curricula where there is limited space.

“This impression was cemented by the research we conducted with the British Veterinary Association as part of our joint Vet Futures project in which there was a strong message from recent graduates that many of them were struggling with the transition into working life.

“One of the key actions of the Vet Futures Action Plan, published in 2016, was therefore to conduct a wide-ranging, root-and-branch review of outcomes for veterinary graduates and how they could be improved, encompassing the veterinary degree and the important first year in practice.

“Since 2016 we have been busy liaising with stakeholders, organisations, educators and others to work out where we think the key areas for potential change can be found and to develop a series of questions for the profession on how improvements can be made; in particular, how we rebalance curricular content to develop capable professionals. We are now proud to be able to launch this consultation to the profession at large.”

The consultation will encompass four core areas identified by the Working Group. These are:

  • Day One Competences – the skills and attributes required by veterinary graduates to work safely and independently upon entering practice. The consultation will be seeking feedback on a new overarching model for the Day One Competences, and some specific competences, encompassing a greater focus on those critically important ‘professional skills’ such as communication, collaboration, self-reflection and clinical reasoning.
  • The Professional Development Phase (PDP) – a period of structured learning and development for recent graduates that acts as a structured bridge between life as a veterinary student and clinical practice. The consultation builds on research conducted last year with the profession, which identified a need for a more structured PDP programme, and the consultation is now asking for feedback on what this could look like.
  • Extra-mural studies (EMS) – the consultation will be asking questions about how EMS placements should best be implemented, to achieve a more consistent quality and value for veterinary students. The consultation will also explore whether EMS could be revised to fall towards the end of the veterinary degree and act as a bridge between the degree and the Professional Development Phase.
  • Clinical education for General Practice – this element of the consultation will be looking at how the veterinary degree can ensure there is an appropriate balance of general practice and specialist experience so that students are prepared for as wide an array of clinical experiences as possible.

Promoting the consultation over the two days of the London Vet Show and throughout the nine-week consultation period, the RCVS will also be running a social media campaign under the hashtag #TheBigPicture, to help raise awareness of the scale and importance of this review and encourage all veterinary surgeons, nurses and students to take part, as well as those in the broader veterinary team.

Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the RCVS Education Committee, at the Graduate Outcomes pre-launch in October 2018 “It is fair to say that this is one of the most ambitious consultations the College has carried out in at least the past 20 years,” said Professor Susan Dawson (pictured), Chair of  the RCVS Education Committee and member of the Graduate Outcomes Working Group, “but it will only succeed if we have the support and input of as many veterinary professionals as possible.

“Our ‘Big Picture’ campaign therefore refers not only to the sheer scale and importance of the areas under consultation, but also to the need to encourage everyone to submit their views, no matter what stage they are in their career, or in what sector of the profession they work. Their constructive feedback will be critical to ensure we get this right, as this will affect not just those qualifying in the next few years, but potentially the next generation of veterinary graduates.

“With such a big picture to consider, we sincerely hope that they can set aside some time to send us their views, and I can assuredly say it will be time very well spent.”

The consultation exercise is being carried out on behalf of the RCVS by the independent research consultancy, Work Psychology Group (WPG).

In mid-November, WPG emailed every RCVS-registered veterinary surgeon and veterinary nurse with a unique link to the online consultation. It is expected that respondents will need to set some time aside to answer the consultation in full, so this personalised link will enable them to submit their views in stages, and pick up where they left off.

The RCVS is also hoping that veterinary students, veterinary organisations and all those in the wider veterinary team will also be able to submit their views via a general link to the online consultation.

The deadline for responding to this first stage of the Graduate Outcomes Consultation is Friday 18 January 2019. The second stage of the consultation, in the first quarter of 2019, will consist of focus groups and interviews with selected respondents.

Online career discussion platform wins ‘inspired by Vet Futures’ competition

An online discussion forum dedicated to sharing ideas, tips and anecdotes about how veterinary surgeons can further develop their careers has won a competition recognising outstanding projects inspired by Vet Futures.

The competition, which was launched in July 2018 marks the second anniversary of the Vet Futures Action Plan. In total 13 entries to the competition were received which, following a shortlisting process, were whittled down to reveal a winner – Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify (or V:SGD). Three entries – VetDB, the VDS Training’s Vet Leadership Programme and Virtual Vet Derms were highly commended by the judges.

V:SGD started as a closed Facebook group where, as the name suggests, vets could discuss how to best use their veterinary degree – whether that was staying in clinical practice, using their skillset in different fields or branching out into a diverse range of other areas. In April of this year, it held its first live event in London featuring a range of seminars, lectures and workshops on career development, mental health, job hunting tips and information about a variety of different career options including civil service, research, science communication and charities.

As the winner of the competition, Ebony Escalona, founder of V:SGD, will now be given a platform to showcase the idea during the BVA Congress stream of the London Vet Show on Thursday 15 November, as well as two tickets to London Vet Show (including accommodation and travel) and support from both BVA and RCVS to promote the project to the wider profession.

Commenting on her win Ebony said: “I am over the moon that V:SGD has been recognised by Vet Futures for its positive impact on the profession. It has gone from helping a few friends to providing a safe and supportive space for thousands of veterinary professionals. I have been astounded by the peer-to-peer career inspiration, helping us to explore our potential together! The beauty of it too is that it has helped so many other Vet Futures inspired initiatives and businesses such as WellVet, Simply Locums, Streetvet and VDS Training to name a few. This award is a HUGE thanks to all the community members who reach out to help our secret supports, share their career stories or just make us feel that we are never alone on this career journey. We are excited to build and create new initiatives and partnerships with V:SGD in the future too #VetPassport.”

All entries to the competition were judged against a set of criteria, including how far they advanced one or more of the six core Vet Futures ambitions, these are:

1. A leading force for animal health and welfare
2. Valued for wider roles in society
3. Confident, resilient, healthy and well-supported
4. A broad range of diverse and rewarding career paths
5. Thriving, innovative, user-focused businesses
6. Exceptional leadership

Simon Doherty, BVA President, said: “We had a very strong field of entrants doing everything from improving the technological tools available to the profession, to developing leadership skills and to helping to enhance the wellbeing of the profession.

“It was a very difficult decision to choose just one but Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify stood out for the impact it has had in opening up the discussion on career change and development within the profession, the major and very well-attended live event it held in April and the enthusiasm and drive of its members.”

Amanda Boag, RCVS President, added: “V:SGD touched on a variety of the Vet Futures project’s core aims, particularly developing a confident and well-supported profession and looking at a broad range of diverse and rewarding career paths.

“By allowing members of the profession to talk about their career dreams, hopes, aspirations and frustrations V:SGD is acting as an important resource to support the veterinary community in a digital age. It is a source of ideas and inspiration for vets seeking to do something a bit different or just seeking reassurance about their current career path.”

Female vet walking in cattle farm

Seven-year itch: vets who make the move to non-clinical work do so after seven years

With widespread concern about the recruitment and retention of vets, new figures from the British Veterinary Association reveal a mix of “push” and “pull” factors in vets’ decisions to leave clinical practice.

The vast majority of the vets polled who are now in non-clinical roles (92%) had worked in clinical practice in the past and, on average, these vets decided to make the move to non-clinical roles seven years after qualification.

Finding a new challenge was the most popular motivation for making the career change. The figures from the BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, which are being published ahead of this weekend’s veterinary careers event, Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify LIVE!, showed that 43% of vets who had moved were looking for a new challenge through a non-clinical role.

Where did they come from, where did they go?

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those vets who had moved from clinical to non-clinical work had worked in mixed practice at some point in the past. Nearly half (49%) had worked in companion animal practice and one in three had worked in production animal practice (33%). Around one in eight had worked in equine practice (12%) at some time during their clinical career.

The survey showed that nearly a third (32%) of working vets who are not in practice are in academia. Commerce and industry was also a popular non-clinical role with one in five (21%) of vets in non-clinical roles choosing to work in these fields.

Reasons for leaving

Vets most commonly gave positive reasons for making the move to a non-clinical role, with 43% citing that they were looking for a new challenge as one of the reasons and 33% saying they were looking for a different type of work.

Vets also based their decision on improving their work/life balance, with a quarter saying they wanted a role with no out of hours work, 14% saying they wanted more flexible working hours and one in ten reporting that clinical work was incompatible with family or outside commitments.

More than one in five (21%) cited difficulty in progressing with their clinical career as a reason whilst just under one in five (19%) were looking for less stress at work.

Gender differences

There were some differences between men and women in the timing of their career change and the reasons behind it. Women tended to leave clinical practice earlier in their career; an average of 6.5 years after they qualified compared to 8 years for men.

Reasons related to working hours and flexibility were more prominent motivations for women to move from clinical practice (54% of female vets compared to 31% of male vets). On the other hand, male vets were more likely than female vets to cite reasons related to a desire to do a different type of work (44% of male vets compared to 24% of female vets).

Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify LIVE!

This weekend (28-29 April), the event ‘Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify LIVE!’ will celebrate the range of roles that vets can take on throughout their careers, providing insight and advice on the different options out there and how to negotiate the move.

BVA Senior Vice President, Gudrun Ravetz, will be touching upon some of the gender issues at play in her talk on the current UK workforce crisis, whilst BVA Junior Vice President, Simon Doherty, will be contributing to the session about veterinary roles in charities. Both Simon and Gudrun will be taking part in a session about what BVA is doing for the profession.

BVA Senior Vice President, Gudrun Ravetz said:

“These figures show that there is a sizeable percentage of practising vets who are making the move into non-clinical roles and that there are a variety of reasons behind their decision. There is a huge diversity of career paths open to vets and it’s important both for those who are already in practice and for those considering a veterinary career to be aware of all the options available.

“I have had a portfolio career myself that involved clinical practice in all different business models including charity practice and industry and I know that the most important thing is for vets to feel fulfilled in their chosen roles and understand that there is a wide range of opportunity available to them.

“However, we also know that practices are seriously worried about being able to recruit and retain staff. Looking at the reasons for leaving – including a desire for more flexibility, a better work/life balance, and concerns about stress – this has to be a wake-up call to all employers to think about whether we can do things differently to support our colleagues.

“BVA has a role to play too and many of the Vet Futures actions are designed to address these issues, including the workforce study commissioned by BVA, the development of a careers hub, and our support for the Mind Matters Initiative led by the RCVS, amongst others. These are issues that the profession must tackle together.”

Lance Corporal Lucy Hennessy RVN

What can you tell us about your role?
Being an RVN in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) offers a unique opportunity to work with military working animals, in particular dogs and horses.

My daily routine includes nursing inpatients, assisting the Veterinary Officer with surgical and medical procedures, running and organising clinics, dispensing medications and supportive treatments, completing routine paperwork and ensuring patient records are maintained and up to date. In addition, I have the opportunity to assist trainee Veterinary Technicians as a Clinical Coach.

Alongside this daily routine, I perform certain military tasks expected of a soldier. These include regular fitness sessions and participating in military drills, exercises and the opportunity to test my RVN skills in the field.

This is a job where every day I have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

How did you achieve your current position?
I gained my VN qualification at Harper Adams University College where I completed both the Foundation Degree in Veterinary Nursing and the Bachelor of Science Degree in Veterinary Nursing. I then worked in a small animal practice for several years before I felt that I needed to do something new. I wanted my abilities to be a part of something important but I wanted to learn new skills at the same time. I didn’t want routine but challenge; and, most importantly of all, I wanted to do something that not many other veterinary nurses did!

After much searching and debating about overseas travel, I happened upon the Army website. I had no idea the Army employed veterinary nurses, or that it was even a military role. I applied and was accepted.

After completing basic training and initial trade training I began work in my role as a veterinary technician. I started out as a Private but after working hard, and having had the opportunity to undertake courses to gain further qualifications, I was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal. The Army is a great place to learn. There is a wide range of courses available and many of them are free or fully/part funded. I have undertaken the following courses:

  • Patrol Dog Handler course, which I completed as part of my Phase 2 training and which gave me the skills for handling military working dogs.
  • Radiation Protection Supervisor course, which gives me the responsibility of ensuring radiation health and safety protocols are followed. I ensure quality assurance checks are performed and recorded and that Dosimeter badges are regularly sent for testing.
  • Defence Train the Trainer course, which I completed when I was given the role of Training Corporal. This qualification equates to a recognised civilian qualification and is required by individuals in an instructor position. I am currently giving veterinary lectures to dog handlers and assisting trainee veterinary technicians with their Nursing Progress Log (NPL) as a clinical coach.
  • Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) course, which I am hoping to undertake in the near future.

What do you enjoy about your job?
For me, it’s the variation. Not only am I a veterinary technician, but I am also a soldier. As a veterinary nurse, I have the opportunity to continue my profession, learn new skills and practice them in a challenging environment. As a soldier I practice discipline, learn military-based skills, such as weapon handling, and have the opportunity to travel to different locations where I continue learning and developing both my veterinary and military skills.

What are the challenges of your role?
The most challenging aspect is adapting to the military way of life. This can be difficult at times but I have always had the support of my family and friends, fellow veterinary technicians and civil servants.

Most people find traveling the most distressing aspect of military life, moving to a new location and leaving family and loved ones behind. I personally see this as an opportunity to meet new people, live somewhere new and work in another challenging environment.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to stay in the army as a veterinary technician for the foreseeable future. I hope to move up the ranks as my career progresses and grow in my role as a veterinary technician. I hope to share my knowledge with others to provide the best care and treatment to military working animals. In addition I aim to continue to learn new skills both in veterinary nursing and as a soldier of the RAVC by undertaking more courses; in particular, I hope to undertake courses that reflect my interest in advanced veterinary nursing and veterinary rehabilitation and physiotherapy.

Susan Howarth RVN

What is your job title and what does the job entail?
I am the Programme Manager for the veterinary nursing course that we offer, which includes the license to practice BSc (Hons) degrees in veterinary nursing, the RCVS DipAVN and postgraduate veterinary nursing courses ranging from certificates to MSc.

My job involves recruitment of students and the development and quality assurance of courses and content, as well as teaching and assessment of students across the range of courses.

Stuart Ford-Fennah RVN

Who is your current employer and what do they do?
I am employed by Cave Veterinary Specialists a multidisciplinary veterinary referral centre in Somerset. As a centre we only see referral level patients in multiple disciplines which include medicine, oncology, soft tissue surgery, orthopaedics, neurology, cardiology and dermatology. These primary areas are then supported by specialists in anaesthesia and diagnostics. Our dedicated nursing team provide a high level of nursing care to these patients 24/7/365.

What is your job title and what does the job entail?
My current position as Clinical Manager is a very diverse role, which includes both clinical and management components. It essentially developed from my previous role in the organisation as Head Nurse; as the organisation developed, it was necessary to step more into managerial role instead of being on the clinic floor. The clinical aspect of my position these days involves obtaining images on our CT and MRI scanners as well as facilitating clinical training for our nurses and animal care assistants.

My managerial role covers many aspects including HR, developing and reviewing standard operating procedures with the nursing team and clinicians, health and safety management, procurement and repairs of equipment, and decision making on clinical products, to name a few. These activities, among others, ensure there are controls and measures in place to ensure clinics continue to run smoothly and we can provide the best care to our patients. I will also assist the directors in other strategic areas of the business, which may include marketing and financial planning. The position is very diverse and allows me to use a lot of my clinical and nursing knowledge alongside my management skills to facilitate the clinical environment, so as a hospital we can provide excellent care to our patients and pet owners.

How did you achieve your current position?
My current position has taken a long time and many hours of work, study and perseverance! I started my career working with animals whilst still at school where I worked at an animal rescue centre, this was during my GCSEs and A-Levels. I also worked on farms assisting with seasonal lambing and calving during my school years. I then went on to complete my degree at the University of Bristol in Veterinary Nursing and Practice Administration.

Whilst at university I acquired a vast and diverse amount of experience in many practice types from small mixed practices, small animal hospitals to large multidiscipline referral centres. Once I completed my degree I was offered a position in my main foster practice – a small animal hospital – where I was able to work on and develop my clinical skills and develop a keen interest in anaesthesia and medicine (intensive care and oncology). I also taught anaesthesia and medicine at the local veterinary nurse training college.

I was then offered the opportunity to start professional writing and wrote my first book review and took on my first mainstream book chapter with an experienced author. I became senior nurse at this hospital and was subsequently offered a position with Cave Veterinary Specialists – a new independent start-up referral centre as Head Veterinary Nurse. The position had a very broad description and the organisation grew rapidly. As the organisation matured my role as Head Nurse leant more toward management.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I love the variation in my position. I can be diagnosing faults with equipment one minute then managing a building expansion project or obtaining images from the MRI or CT scanners the next. Although I have a lot of off-clinic time, I am still very much in touch with the clinical aspect of the hospital and, as a veterinary nurse, I think it’s important to maintain this as ultimately all the management things I do are to facilitate and improve the care we give to our patients.

I also spend a lot of time discussing issues with my colleagues and we have very integrated approach to discussion and decision making and a great team collaborative approach to problem solving. I really enjoy working as part of a team and working with people who share the same views on high levels of patient and owner care.

What are the challenging aspects about your job?
Time is a hard thing to have enough of and in a busy hospital there are many demands on time, as well as having a family life and studying. Fitting it all into a normal day is the biggest challenge I face at work.

What are your plans for the future?
I am currently focusing on completing my Masters in Business Administration with a view to developing my management skills. I am also keen to write more for journals and to help support other nurses with this in my practice.

What other qualifications do you hold?
NVQ Lvl3 Veterinary Nursing, BSc(Hons) in Veterinary nursing and practice administration for the university of Bristol, C-SQP, NEBOSH CertOccH&S (NEBOSHH certificate in occupational health and safety), AIOSH (Associate member of the Institute of occupational safety and health), Dip Mgmt (professional diploma in management should be awarded by the end of October

Nimisha Patel RVN

Who is your current employer and what do they do?
My current employer is Highcroft Vet Group. We have 13 branches across the South West and run a general practice as well as referrals in Whitchurch.

What is your job title and what does the job entail?
I work as a registered veterinary nurse in a referral practice. I could be running a ward of patients, dogs, cats or exotics to ensure they get their medications and the care they need. I may also oversee the surgeries for the day, ensure everything is ready in a theatre, including equipment, and then prepare and monitor the anaesthetic for each procedure.

How did you achieve your current position?  
I completed 8-10 weeks of work experience over a year, in the UK and abroad, before I started my BSc in Veterinary Nursing and Bioveterinary Science at the University of Bristol. I then worked at Langford Veterinary Services, before moving to my current employer.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the medical nursing part of my job, preparing medications, simple and complex. I enjoy the tender love and care we give to patients, which is often what they need alongside their medical care.

What are the challenging aspects of your role?
The challenging aspects of the job for me was making the transition from being a student and becoming confident in my skills as a veterinary nurse, not just the practical skills but the ward management, people skills and other roles we have.

What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future include continuing representation of registered and student veterinary nurses with the British Veterinary Nursing Association and British Association of Veterinary Nursing Students, and my skills as a veterinary nurse in practice.

What other qualifications do you have?
I have been a member of BVNA Council since I qualified in 2015, entering my third term this year and hope to continue my specialism in the future, but I am most passionate about the profession as a whole and representation for veterinary nurses in the future.

Hayley Walters RVN

What is your current position?
I am the Welfare and Anaesthesia Nurse at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and have been for over five years. I work in the Anaesthesia Department of our small animal teaching hospital helping to teach final-year vet students the importance of a well-thought-out anaesthetic and analgesia plan, and how that impacts on the animal’s welfare.

We are a unique vet school, as we have an international animal welfare department, meaning I teach veterinary lecturers and veterinary students in developing nations such as India and Sri Lanka. Subjects such as small animal pain recognition, nursing, anaesthesia, behaviour and handling are all taught, as we have often found that these subjects can be overlooked in many vet schools where large animal work has been the priority for so many years.

Tell us how you got to your current position?
I achieved my Welfare and Anaesthesia Nurse position by responding to a job advert posted by the University of Edinburgh that seemed too good to be true. They were looking for a VN who had experience in anaesthesia, working in a referral centre, teaching and Asia. I had worked in China and Vietnam for over three years as a VN for a charity called Animals Asia, rescuing bears from the bile-farming industry and rehabilitating them into semi-natural enclosures after extensive treatment. I had spent a year in Paris teaching English, had worked in a referral centre and completed a lot of anaesthesia CPD. I had been hoping to get a job that would put my knowledge of Asia and teaching to good use and couldn’t believe my luck when I read the advert!

What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy most about my job is teaching a student, whether it be in Sri Lanka, India, China or Edinburgh, who is passionate about doing the very best they can to improve their patient’s experience. A student that just ‘gets it’.

Animals are very often frightened, lonely and confused when they are in with us and I think that can be forgotten sometimes. They get broken down to their biological needs, or their condition, or their surgery, and their emotional wellbeing gets overlooked. I love it when a student, even with very limited resources, provides everything their patient needs, including love, because they understand it from the animal’s perspective. These are the students who give me hope that the future of the veterinary profession is in good hands.

What do you find most challenging about your work?
What I find most challenging about my job is working with vets or nurses who are not open to education or change. I’ve seen patients moving during surgery under inappropriate anaesthesia and not receiving adequate pain relief before, during, or after surgery.

This problem is not exclusive to Asian countries and, even with the UK’s drug availability, I still know that a lack of adequate analgesia is rife in our practices.

Educating people is only part of the answer. We have to make sure they have the capability, opportunity and motivation to change.

What are your future plans?
My plans for the future are a little vague at the moment as I have just had a baby and I am on maternity leave. My two major projects, setting up a VN training course in a vet school in Sri Lanka and India, and creating an online VN skills course targeted at countries who don’t currently have VNs, are now in the very capable hands of my maternity cover, Jess Davies, for the next year.

What are your other qualifications?
I have a VN merit award in anaesthesia and analgesia and I did a TEFL course to be able to teach English in Paris.

Vet Futures: full steam ahead during first year of action phase

One year on from the Vet Futures Summit, and excellent progress has been made on key actions that are putting the veterinary profession in charge of its future, made possible through great engagement from the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions.

 Vet Futures, powered by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA), created a blueprint for the future of the veterinary profession, and over the past twelve months activity has been taking place across the professions to put the plan into action.

The Vet Futures Summit took place on 4 July 2016 at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden, and saw the launch of the Vet Futures Action Plan and the VN Futures Report and Action Plan in front of an assembled audience of vets, nurses, students and stakeholders from the UK and overseas.

The Vet Futures Action Plan included a series of 24 work-streams to be completed over five years (2016-2020), building on the six core themes of: animal health and welfare; veterinary professionals’ wider roles in society; the health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals; diverse and rewarding veterinary careers; sustainable businesses and user-focused services; and leadership.

Over the last twelve months, key activities have included:

  • The setting up of a UK One Health Coordination Group, which will meet for the first time later this year, bringing together representatives from the veterinary, medical and environmental professions to provide a focus for One Health activity in the UK, and delivering the actions in the BVA animal welfare strategy (Actions A and F).
  • The establishment of the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition, which aims to coordinate public communications on key animal welfare issues to amplify messages about the five welfare needs. The Coalition has launched the five welfare needs logo and undertaken PR and social media activity throughout National Pet Month (Action D).
  • The launch, by the Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) Research Committee, of a UK summer studentship programme that aims to increase the number of vets engaged in research – 16 students will start the programme this summer (Action E).
  • The planning stages for an online careers hub as a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in studying for, or progressing, their veterinary career (Action G).
  • The launch of a Graduate Outcomes project to consider the skills and competences of future veterinary professionals, including the viability and desirability of limited licensure, the behaviours and skills required of veterinary graduates and how the undergraduate course might be structured in the future (Actions H, I and J).
  • A survey amongst non-UK EU graduates to better understand the support required by this group (as well as their intentions with regard to working in the UK post-Brexit), which received a 55% response rate (Action K).
  • A collaborative research project on workforce issues with psychologists at the University of Exeter, as part of which researchers are currently undertaking a literature review and analysing existing data in preparation for further research into some of the major workforce trends and challenges (Action L).
  • Research towards the development of a leadership massive open online course (MOOC) and also a hub to promote and develop leadership skills at all levels within the veterinary profession (Action Q).
  • The creation of an Innovation Symposium, to be held at the Warwick Business School campus in the Shard on 20 September 2017, which will bring together thought-leaders and those involved in innovative veterinary technologies and business models, to lead discussions on how these can be embraced by the profession. The event will also see the launch of an online innovation hub (Action R).
  • A consultation across the professions and the public to gather views around how new veterinary technologies should be regulated, with a view to establishing a framework to encompass future innovations; around 1,500 views were received and the findings are being considered by the RCVS Standards Committee (Action S).
  • Agreement on options for a framework for the regulation of allied professionals by RCVS Council at its June 2017 meeting, which are now being progressed into more detailed proposals (Action U).
  • Following discussion with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), the Vet Futures model is now being embraced across Europe, with the FVE adopting aspects of it into their own strategy plan, and France, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark developing similar projects. Some of the European associations, such as the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations and the European Veterinarians in Education, Research and Industry, have now added Vet Futures Europe to their strategies (Action W).

VN Futures

The VN Futures project (Action X of Vet Futures) isolated six ambitions to achieve by 2020, with the shorter time-scale reflecting the faster rate of both turnover and training for veterinary nurses.

A number of development groups have been created, focusing on each of these ambitions and creating specific actions to ensure their completion. Of these:

  • The One Health Working Party has collaborated with the Royal College of Nursing on smoking cessation.
  • The Careers Progression Group has met twice and is planning four regional events, the first of which will take place at Hartpury College in Gloucester on 11 July, and will focus on veterinary nurses as managers.
  • The Schedule 3 Working Party has asked vets and nurses for their thoughts on, and experiences of, the role of the veterinary nurse. About 35% of veterinary nurses and 20% of veterinary surgeons responded, feeding into a wider analysis of whether Schedule 3 should be reformed.

“When we launched Vet Futures back in 2014, the scope of the project seemed daunting and some were sceptical of our ability to succeed. However, through a robust process of evidence-gathering, analysis, action planning and now taking action itself, we are starting to make an impact on some of those core areas that are so fundamental to the future of our profession, such as animal welfare, technology, veterinary skills and knowledge, and leadership,” says RCVS President, Chris Tufnell.

“Our Action Plan set out a five-year timeframe and we have made some really excellent progress in year one. This will form the foundation of work yet to come – although it remains important to ensure we scan the horizon for new issues that will have an impact on the profession, navigating our way through challenges as they arise.”

BVA President Gudrun Ravetz adds: “The excitement was palpable at the Vet Futures Summit last year and it spurred us on to roll up our sleeves immediately to start working on the Action Plan, and so a lot has been achieved already.

“Many of the actions are interlinked and so BVA, RCVS and the VSC are working closely together to oversee their delivery, but we have been particularly pleased at the high level of engagement and enthusiasm from others. The success of Vet Futures will be in the profession coming together to bring about the changes we need for a sustainable future.”

The next generation

Helena Diffey is the past President of the Association of Veterinary Students UK and Ireland (AVS). In this role she represented vet students on a range of professional forums and coordinates the central AVS committee.

Helena is in her fifth year of study at the Royal Veterinary College, having intercalated in Global Health at Imperial College, London. She enjoys the great variety within veterinary medicine, from lab work to surgery, and has a wider interest in epidemiology, neglected diseases, policy making and veterinary education.

Helena Diffey

Helena Diffey

“Only half of recent graduates say their career has matched expectations,” revealed a survey from the Vet Futures project in 2015. As a student on the verge of beginning my career in the veterinary profession, this was a pretty distressing statistic to find out. I think this is why Vet Futures was so timely and this Action Plan so essential; the profession cannot afford to fail the next
generation of vets. How people gain satisfaction in their careers is clearly different for each individual. However, I can’t help
thinking that underlying the frustrations of young vets is a profession not ready for the millennial generation to which I belong. A generation with very different expectations of life and work, we desire careers with diversity, flexibility and challenge. Many of the actions in the Plan relate to issues within the veterinary profession itself. These are extremely important to tackle as
they are very real problems to those at all stages in their careers. Young vets, in particular, will struggle to progress without adequate mentoring and support, or viable opportunities to take a career break or to change direction.

Us millennial vets are also more acutely aware of how globalised our world is, with a strong sense of moral duty to make a positive impact. In my opinion, the global issues we face today, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and food and environmental security, present the most exciting opportunities for the veterinary profession now and in the future. As a profession we need to work with other sectors and disciplines to extend our influence into areas of animal health and welfare beyond the veterinary practice. Our profession should be capitalising on the strengths and capabilities of the fantastic next generation of vets, not apologising for a lack of career options and letting them go. During the process of developing the Vet Futures Action Plan I have been fascinated to learn about innovative technologies on the near horizon that will undoubtedly completely change the way vets practise. UK veterinary education is already on the cutting-edge of science, nevertheless our Action Plan includes the consideration of different ways of training the veterinary workforce, in the interests of creating a wider role in society for the profession and improving career satisfaction.

I strongly believe that providing more choice and freedom for students to explore areas of personal interest during their training will, further to having a positive impact on wellbeing, create a more diverse, dynamic and resilient profession. Students need to be encouraged and rewarded, not least be given the time, for innovative and creative thinking. This is what will see us well into the future.

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