On Wednesday 29 September 2021, the VN Futures project launched its interim report giving a review of the project’s achievements from the last five years, a summary of the initiatives that have been launched as part of the project and a wealth of veterinary nursing and stakeholder case studies.
The VN Futures project, a joint initiative delivered by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Nurses Association (BVNA), was launched in 2016, developed out of the Veterinary Futures initiative. The project was set up with ambitions which included highlighting veterinary nursing as a career and encouraging more people into veterinary nursing, expanding the scope of the veterinary nurse (VN) role, and providing more opportunity for career progression. Although the launch of the VN Futures Interim Report signifies the end of the first five-year phase of the VN Futures project, the report makes a wealth of recommendations to continue the positive steps made to improve the profession for current and future veterinary nurses.
One of the key activities to come out of the project was the introduction of a School Ambassadors Development Programme, which was piloted in late 2019. This followed feedback from the profession that many veterinary nurses did not learn about the profession at school, and the project was launched to help get school children interested in veterinary nursing from a young age. The report outlines how key activities such as this are vital for ensuring that veterinary nursing is a sustainable profession and that more people recognise the value of the work that VNs do for the welfare of the UK’s animals.
Another project covered by the Interim Report is around the outcomes of the VN Futures goal of maximising veterinary nurse potential, creating new routes for post registration qualifications and supporting the Legislative Working Party (LWP) proposed changes to introduce protections for the VN role and expand the responsibilities that veterinary nurses have. The project found that many veterinary nurses were interested in meaningful career development and wanted to develop their skills in certain areas but that they did not always feel these were available. The project addressed this by developing the framework for the new Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Nursing (CertAVN) in 2019, now offered by four institutions, which gives veterinary nurses the opportunity to study for a post-registration qualification, at Level 6 or Level 7 in the discipline of their choice.
The report also outlines the need to attract a diverse workforce, and states that “incorporating as many different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives as possible into the profession can only benefit the team, pet owners and animal welfare”. The project has developed a range of ideas to address this including launching the Chronic Illness Campaign to support veterinary nurses affected by disability and chronic illness and creating a dedicated group who will be working on measures to increase diversity within the profession for years to come.
There are certainly challenges within the profession, and the report doesn’t shy away from addressing them. Among them are the financial remunerations, lack of progression and the struggle to maintain a good work/life balance.
VN Futures Project Coordinator Jill Macdonald commented: “The VN Futures Interim Report is being released during a significant year for the profession. As well as celebrating the past achievements of the profession during our Diamond Jubilee celebrations, this year has shown us that we also have a lot to look forward to, as we reached 20,000 VNs on the register and the first VN Practice Standards Scheme Assessor, Renay Rickard, was appointed.
“The report is a culmination of years of hard work, putting in place measures to champion the veterinary nursing profession and safeguard it for the future. Through the introduction of initiatives like the School Ambassador Development Programme and the introduction of the CertAVN, to name but a few, we have put in place steps to inspire the next generation of veterinary nurses and support the training and development of people currently working in the profession.”
Julie Dugmore, director of veterinary nursing, said: “This is just the first step of the project, and we will be developing a number of new projects over the coming months and years to support this incredible profession that I’m proud to be a part of.
“We would like to thank everyone who has been involved with the VN Futures project, from the initial VN Futures Action Group and the various VN Futures Working Groups, to those individuals who have directly contributed content. We couldn’t have achieved as much as we have without your support. Thank you for all the time, expertise and enthusiasm you have given to the work of the project over the past five years”.
You can read the full VN Futures Interim Report here.