Some 100 people gathered at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on Friday, 19 August, for a belated in-person event organised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to celebrate the profession’s 2021 Diamond Jubilee year.
The evening event, co-hosted by Matthew Rendle, Chair of the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council, and Julie Dugmore, RCVS Director of Veterinary Nursing, was the first time prominent members of the veterinary nursing profession were able to formally gather to celebrate the landmark year which represented the 60th anniversary of the first RCVS-approved training course for registered animal auxiliary nurses (RANAs), as they were then known.
A new video giving an overview of the profession’s history from 1961 to the present day was also showcased for the first time at the evening. The video, which is available to view at RCVS’s youtube channel, takes in landmark developments such as: the 1965 formation of what would become the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA); the implementation of Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act in 1991 recognising and clarifying the role of veterinary nurses; the introduction of a Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses in 2012; and the 2015 Royal Charter which recognised VNs as RCVS associates and formalising the Register of Veterinary Nurses.
Speaking at the Diamond Jubilee Evening, Julie Dugmore told attendees about her own career as a veterinary nurse and how it has reflected the development of the profession itself. This included her 20 years working for the RCVS, which saw her starting as an external verifier at RCVS Awards, the College’s now defunct awarding body, and then becoming RCVS Director of Veterinary Nursing in 2013.
She said: “In the nine years since I took this role, we have seen a new Royal Charter recognise veterinary nurses as a fully regulated profession, with associate membership of the RCVS and a statutory register. I’ve seen the formation of the VN Futures project which involved holding dozens of meetings with members of the profession to discuss the challenges facing veterinary nurses, what solutions can be found, and how we can better take hold of our destinies in areas such as career development, maximising our potential and developing our leadership skills.
“The first phase of the VN Futures Action Plan has produced some very tangible outputs – the development and rollout of the new Certificates in Advanced Veterinary Nursing allowing greater choice and flexibility in both clinical and non-clinical advanced qualifications, the SUPERB poster and a series of case studies to help both vets and VNs navigate the tricky topic of delegation along with mental health awareness and resilience training via the Mind Matters Initiative.
“We’re here with a proud past behind us, but this is not a case of remembering the good old days because, notwithstanding some challenges, we also have a great future. Even in the short-term we have some amazing developments coming up such as a new clinical supervisor support course via the RCVS Academy, the development of an Advanced Veterinary Nurse Practitioner status to complement the Certificate, as well as the development of a greater support package for newly-registered VNs.”
Matthew Rendle also spoke about his hopes for the future of the profession, reflecting on his own 30 year career, adding: “Kindness is key for the future of our profession: kindness to our patients, our clients and ourselves. Kindness often trumps ability and knowledge.
“We tend to all continue to gain ability and knowledge the longer we work in any area of veterinary nursing, not just clinical. However, we can completely alter a colleague’s day, month, year, or even career just with some kind words or support.
“Sometimes just discussing someone’s worries can be very positive, especially if you feel strong enough to disclose that you share these worries and talk about your own coping mechanisms. This can be extremely powerful, and in my time in nursing these kinds of conversations are becoming more common. It is okay to not be the best at something, and while talking about your weaknesses can be hard, it will help others, so let’s do it and let’s make this happen now.
“We have opportunities and challenges coming up in many areas of our profession and we must all embrace them, not for us, but for the future of our amazing profession. Remember personal egos only ever detract, it’s not about me, it’s about us, the student, the new RVNs, the vets, the whole team, so be open, be kind, be supportive, be inspiring, but most of all be loud and proud, we are veterinary nurses, and we are awesome.”
Both Julie’s and Matthew’s speeches from the Diamond Jubilee Evening are available to read in full on the website.
Earlier in the day, the College also held two rounds of its VN Day ceremonies at the University of Oxford Examination Schools, where 168 newly-qualified nurses were welcomed to the Register by Matthew Rendle and RCVS President Melissa Donald. The achievements of five nurses who had received either the Certificate or Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing were also celebrated.