Stacy Brook, nurse manager at London Road Veterinary Centre. Image © IVC Evidensia
At a time when challenges remain across the profession, the role of veterinary nurses has never been more important.
And while Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month (VNAM) shines a much-merited spotlight on them for a few weeks, for IVC Evidensia that focus, profile and attention is a year-round imperative.
As an industry leader, offering care, training and support to its nurses isn’t just invaluable, it’s a beacon for others to follow. And that will be the case more than ever in 2022 as the IVC Evidensia Nurse Academy is headed for its busiest-ever year.
Launched in 2016 and exclusive to newly qualified RVNs within the group, it has grown massively since its inception.
From only a handful of nurses on the first intake, the numbers recruited since the academy began topped 447 this year. Between the current spring and autumn intakes, it’s anticipated the annual intake record will be broken this year as the impressive growth continues.
“We’re aiming to make this bigger and better than ever,” said academy manager and RVN Nathan Booth.
“It’s a 12-month CPD programme that is great for nurses who have just qualified as they have their first year all mapped out for them. We’re here to build on their day-one skills, and increase their confidence and abilities in all sorts of different areas.”
The carefully structured programme includes eight comprehensive workshops, currently presented live online, across the year. Among the topics covered are well-being, laboratory, consult skills, anaesthesia, wound management, dental and nutrition.
May will see the return of face-to-face practical sessions, suspended since the start of the pandemic.
All nurses are allocated a VN support, an experienced nurse within the practice, quarterly tutor group sessions, ongoing individual projects and extensive, relevant e-learning access.
“When you’re newly qualified, you’ve got the essentials you need to practise, but I’ve always felt you don’t really start learning until after you qualify,” said Mr Booth.
“That’s when you can cement your skills as an RVN. When I first qualified more than 15 years ago, there wasn’t anything like this available and, looking back, I know it would have made such a difference.”
The culmination of the 12 months is far from the end of the support, with ongoing tailored CPD available.
Mr Booth continued: “We also have what we call a progression session attended by guest speaker RVNs both from within the company and externally.
“They’ve had interesting career paths in different roles, and we want to open up possibilities to our nurses. That may be a great job in primary care, but equally it highlights some of the other exciting options available and what’s needed to make that happen.
“We encourage them to work on one, three and five-year plans so they can map out a satisfying career path.”
While the academy has trained 447 newly qualified RVNs, IVC Evidensia also offers a range of training from return to practice, aspiring leaders and advanced leadership courses, right through to coaching and mentoring as well as numerous, topic-specific clinical CPD. There are courses for all interests and more planned.
Progression is key within IVC Evidensia; the opportunity is always there to learn more and move into the roles that make the most of talent and fulfil ambition.
Multiple career opportunities
For RVN Victoria Walker, it’s been a 25-year journey that’s taken her from student veterinary nurse training in a mixed practice at the age of 17 to practice director at Scarsdale Vets in Derby.
She became head nurse just before the move to Pride Veterinary Centre in 2011 and gradually moved into more managerial roles, having been given extensive support, which still continues with remote leadership coaching.
She has seen an evolution in the way vet nurses are viewed and uses her role to ensure that positive impression continues.
“IVC Evidensia offers multiple career opportunities, and vet nursing can truly be a career for life,” said Miss Walker.
“I think I’ve been quite lucky as the management team already recognised the benefit of nurses and what they could bring. A lot of it has been educating the vet team as to exactly what skills the nurses can bring, and encouraging a lot of training from the vets with the nurses, and vice versa.
“Having the opportunity to share knowledge provides a better understanding to the vets.”
Despite her many management responsibilities at Scarsdale, Miss Walker remains a registered nurse.
She said: “I still keep up my CPD and get involved with the patients at times to utilise my skills. You have to be able to do that to understand any challenges the team is having and also to improve the standards.”
Victoria Walker, practice director at Scarsdale Vets. Image © IVC Evidensia
Mental health and well-being focus
With the challenging situation within the profession, keeping experienced nurses engaged and motivated in front-line roles is obviously important.
Stacy Brook, RVN and nurse manager at London Road Veterinary Centre in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, is one who has found the IVC Evidensia culture makes that work for her.
She said: “One of the things that has changed enormously since joining the group in 2017 is the focus on mental health and well-being, which is so important in the veterinary field at the moment.
“It’s something that is spoken about very openly here, which wasn’t the case before we joined. And the support we’ve had overall, especially with the challenges of the past couple of years, has been invaluable.
“There are so many group-wide initiatives, including a mental health first-aid course, which I’ll be doing this year. That gives you the toolkit to help deal with a mental health crisis and how to support those who need it. This helps you to recognise those who are struggling with their mental health and assist them to find the support they need.”
Having started her career in 1997, Mrs Brook joined London Road as head nurse in 2004.
She has been increasingly involved in the management decision-making process since the practice became a part of IVC Evidensia and has also taken on one of the VN support roles.
She said: “I’m a committed person and I like to challenge myself. Having new responsibilities was a really positive step for me. But I still do my nurse shifts, and am involved with training and supporting our student nurses.
“I love nursing and it’s very important to me that I’m still able to do that. I’m a really good nurse with good skills and I’d hate to step away from that.”
With expansion and continuous development, the IVC Evidensia Nurse Academy is forever evolving. The ethos, however, hasn’t changed and that remains critical.
“Ultimately, we are here to show nurses their value and ensure they are the best nurses they can be,” added Mr Booth.
“Historically, retention levels have been quite low for veterinary nurses, and although retention is a multifaceted issue, the academy is playing its part in trying to help attract and support new nurses to the profession. And we are always heartened by the feedback we get from nurses about the massive increase in their skills and confidence levels.”
l This article was supplied by IVC Evidensia.