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The value of veterinary nurses to practice – changing the mind-set

Stephanie-Writer Davies is a veterinary surgeon and a member of the VN Futures Career Progression Working Group.

Stephanie has always been very supportive of the veterinary nursing profession, recognising the value of veterinary nurses to practice and being keen to see them performing broader and more challenging roles and improve their status and job satisfaction. She is a previous SPVS President, and is currently the SPVS VN Liaison.

The Career Progression Group is working towards several ambitions which form part of the VN Futures Report and Action Plan; including maximising the value of veterinary nurses in practice, and encouraging charging correctly for nurses’ skills and time. Stephanie discusses some of these issues in this short blog – to which we welcome input and comments from our readers.

Veterinary surgeon, Stephanie Writer-Davies
Stephanie Writer-Davies

There has been some debate in recent months over the value of veterinary nurses to practices, and the ‘cost’ to veterinary businesses of their veterinary nursing staff.

So, how should practice owners think about their nursing teams in terms of cost vs value? Are they an ‘overhead’ that has to be factored into the business’ ‘Profit and Loss’ (P&L), one which provides useful support for patients and clients, but which doesn’t contribute to the financial health of the practice?

I make this somewhat controversial comment to stimulate debate because I hope that everyone who knows me (or knows of me) is aware that this is in direct contradiction to what I actually believe! Veterinary nurses are never, to my mind, a net cost to practices, but to accept this I think we have to look at things in a different way.

Veterinary practices contain a team of staff members with different roles, all of which contribute to the practice income. No single group can manage without the help and support of the others, and that should be acknowledged. In relation to veterinary nurses in particular, it’s important to recognise that veterinary surgeons cannot work effectively without nursing support – and that’s not just in relation to the ‘stuff out the back’; veterinary nurses play a big role in the consulting room, not only as ‘assistants’ for the vets, but also as consulting professionals in their own right. Both these aspects of the role of veterinary nurses include income generation but the difficulty is that practices often don’t show how veterinary nurses generate income in a transparent way.

I believe we should change our mindsets about this and recognise the financial contribution that veterinary nurses make to practices as well as their clinical contribution – and in doing so we must change the way we talk about veterinary nurses. Veterinary nurses are not just ‘the staff out the back’ whose time is given away for ‘free’ in nurse clinics; they are expertly trained professionals who provide a necessary and valuable service for animals and their owners and their time is therefore worthy of a professional fee! We should show the nursing charges on our bills for surgical, diagnostic and in-patient care – after all many practices itemise things such as surgical kits so why not anaesthetic monitoring by the RVN, for example? We charge hospitalisation fees but why do we not list nursing care as part of this cost? And what about the admission and discharge appointments that are often done by veterinary nurses – why do we not show the costs of those amongst the surgical or other charges? If we don’t, then we should!

There is a view that Nurse Clinics don’t generate income but, in my opinion, this is flawed. Many of the consultations that nurses do are ‘pre-charged’ by the veterinary surgeons (eg 2nd vaccinations, post-op checks, repeat medications etc) so the charge for the nurse’s time gets ‘lost’ in the initial veterinary surgeon fees. Additionally, of course, if these appointments weren’t carried out by the veterinary nurses they would have to be done by the vets, so these clinics free up the vets’ time to be used for consultations on new cases or additional surgical procedures, for example, which generate new income. In effect, this vet-led income generation is facilitated by the veterinary nurses taking on the nurse clinics. Then there’s the thorny issue of how to charge for tasks such as emptying anal glands or clipping nails… is it cheaper if a veterinary nurse does it? Absolutely not! ‘Task-led’ procedures of this type should be charged at a set fee – after all a nail clip is the same whoever does it – and they should be done by veterinary nurses to free up veterinary surgeons’ time. If clients insist on seeing a vet for something of this nature, then they should be charged a consultation fee. And no more ‘free’ nurse clinics please! They can perhaps be complementary for patients on health plans but otherwise nurse consultations should be charged appropriately!

I don’t want you to think that I consider veterinary nurses as ‘mini’ or ‘frustrated’ vets because I don’t. To me, they are skilled co-professionals important for veterinary businesses and patient welfare and they should be proud of the role they play and the financial value they bring. However, this should be acknowledged and promoted by the other members of staff within the practice so that clients see the veterinary nursing profession in a new light. With enhanced public respect and an acceptance of their value should come the potential for enhanced roles in practices for veterinary nurses which should also result in improved salaries!

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.

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.”

VNs looking to themselves for change

Daniel is Operations Manager at Dick White Referrals and a practising RVN. Daniel began his career as a Saturday receptionist at a small clinic and became a veterinary nurse in 2007, moving on to become Head Nurse at a large 24-hour veterinary hospital in East London.

Daniel holds the A1/V1 Clinical Coach qualifications, Level 3 in British Sign Language and is currently completing a Chartered Management Institute Level 7 qualification in Strategic Leadership. Daniel works across HR, strategy and development, facilities management, health and safety and leadership.

Daniel Hogan

Daniel Hogan

My current role is Operations Manager at Dick White Referrals. Starting my career as a veterinary nurse in a variety of roles, and moving to senior management positions, I have always been passionate about the profession and my role within it, but felt that the nursing profession was under-valued and lacked recognition for the important roles RVNs play. I also believed that this attitude towards RVNs restricted our full potential.

Having not previously been engaged with the RCVS and other professional organisations, I felt it was time to play a more proactive role in influencing the future of our profession and joined the Vet Futures and VN Futures projects. Immediately it was clear that a large amount of work had already been started, but there was still a substantial task ahead of us.

Both Action Groups contained a fantastic mix of professionals from an array of backgrounds with a variety of experience, but the real challenge was capturing everybody’s thoughts and ideas and placing them within the context of a working document; a challenge I hope we have met.

It was fantastic to see that everyone shared the same passion for the profession and, more promisingly, that the veterinary nursing profession could address its own issues separately.

VN Futures hosted several evening meetings to meet RVNs from around the country to obtain feedback about their priorities for the future and discuss what were felt to be the biggest issues in the profession. The response was incredible and covered a range of practical, current and future issues. More importantly, we discussed where we wanted our profession to be!

Initially I was apprehensive that the ambitions were too big and not manageable and I had a genuine concern that it was the same issues being addressed by the same organisations. We have, however, engaged with people from across the entire veterinary and veterinary nursing professions and, crucially, those outside the veterinary world.

Many in the VN profession are unhappy and we would be naive to assume everything is perfect. Whether it is low salaries, poor working conditions, lack of training opportunities, disappointing progression routes, absence of support from the employer, or a lack of recognition for the work that we do, we now have an opportunity to make a change.

So I truly believe that both the Vet and VN Futures plans will modernise and develop our professions for the better and, importantly, that we will achieve this within a credible timeframe.

I urge everyone who works in the veterinary team to engage with the action plans. This is our profession and our opportunity to contribute to its future.

VN Futures project launched

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) have launched VN Futures, a companion project to Vet Futures, which aims to draw up a blueprint for the future of the veterinary nursing profession.

One of the recommendations of the Vet Futures report (Taking charge of our future: a vision for the veterinary profession for 2030), which was published in November 2015, was to “encourage veterinary nurse leaders to develop a report and recommendations which are directly relevant to veterinary nurses and their future…”.

Following a joint meeting between the RCVS VN Council and the Council of the BVNA in October 2015, it was decided that a ‘VN Futures’ project would provide the relevant leadership and engagement to achieve this.

An initial meeting with a broad range of stakeholders took place at the RCVS on 7 January 2016, and, following this, a VN Futures Action Group has now been established to take the project forward, with the aim of delivering an action plan at the Vet Futures Summit in the summer.

The Action Group includes a mix of individuals involved in the training, representation, regulation, employment and management of veterinary nurses.

The timeframe under consideration for Vet Futures is until 2030, however, it was considered that a five-year timeline may be more appropriate for veterinary nursing, given that it’s a younger profession, the retention rate is lower, and the training cycle is shorter.

The VN Futures project is running a series of evening meetings to engage with VNs and those involved in the profession, as follows:

  • 14 March, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU
  • 18 April, the College of Animal Welfare, Topcliffe Close, Capitol Park, Tingley, Leeds WF3 1DR
  • 11 May, Edinburgh Napier University, Sighthill Campus, Edinburgh EH11 4BN
  • 17 May, Nottingham Belfry Hotel, Mellors Way, Notts NG8 6PY, this will be a discussion stream within an RCVS Regional Question Time meeting
  • 31 May, SSE SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff CF11 9XR, this will be a discussion stream within an RCVS Regional Question Time meeting

The meetings are free to attend and will start at 6.30pm, with a buffet supper. To register visit the VN Futures Eventbrite page.

“The VN Futures project aims to deliver an action plan that will help take the veterinary nursing profession into its next phase of development. With the new Charter now in place, and a willingness from Defra to review Schedule 3, the time is ripe for us to take control of what happens next,” says Liz Cox, Chair of the RCVS VN Council.

“The key to VN Futures’ success will be collaboration – I am delighted that we are working with the BVNA on this, together with other representative bodies – and also engagement: we want to hear VNs’ aspirations for their profession to ensure our action plan is as relevant and far-reaching as possible. I look forward to seeing a good turn-out for our roadshow events,” she added.

Sam Morgan, BVNA President, says: “BVNA is delighted to be working alongside RCVS VN Council on this project. We fully believe in the importance of the veterinary nurse within practice and think this project can help shape the future of the profession. Being involved in the Vet Futures project, via BVA, was an eye-opener, and that only just touched on our own profession; we now have the chance to look at veterinary nursing specifically, and it is an opportunity not to be missed. Knowing where we want to take the profession will make it so much easier to reach the goal.”

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