Ethnic diversity scholarship opens door for minority background VNs

Written by: Bill Gibb
Published on: 8 Feb 2022
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Image © Jakub Krechowicz / Adobe Stock

If determination and an iron will to succeed are prerequisites for making it in the veterinary nursing profession, Venus Tamjidi could hardly be better equipped.

The 18-year-old from London, whose heritage is Kurdish, has faced a double bill of challenges. She is from an ethnic minority background that is still woefully under-represented in the vet professions, and she’s faced a lifelong struggle with autism – so impactful at times that it left her wailing in frustration.

She has coped with every one of her educational and social challenges – as well as dealing with a barrage of bullying – to work towards her veterinary nursing dream.

Now, thanks to a pioneering Vets Now scholarship scheme, that dream is finally coming true.

Pivotal

The scheme is funding vet nurses from ethnic minority backgrounds and the first three scholars have just started their studies.

In Miss Tamjidi’s case, the financial backing has been pivotal in helping her take up her place at the RVC Hawkshead campus. She said: “I feel like I’ve always been waiting for this and it’s amazing that I have the opportunity to be here. I’m so lucky that the scholarship has helped open this door for me.”

Miss Tamjidi has had issues with autism for almost as long as she can remember. She said: “I couldn’t fully speak until I was seven. When I was even younger, I’d just wail in frustration as I couldn’t communicate and be understood.

“I used to find some comfort in watching David Attenborough nature documentaries as I had a connection with the animals that couldn’t speak to express what they were feeling.”

Miss Tamjidi initially went to a special needs school before moving into mainstream education. She didn’t always get the help and support she needed – especially in secondary school – and also had to face up to distressing bullying from those who felt she didn’t fit in.

But with the support of her family, she very much kept a focus on working with animals.

However, although around 14% of the working age population identity as minority ethnic, recent figures show only 3% of the veterinary professions are from such backgrounds – and Miss Tamjidi found that to be very apparent.

Venus Tamjidi

Venus Tamjidi, one of three to start a Vets Now nursing scholarship.

Change

Miss Tamjidi said: “At my school, very few people chose the veterinary profession and it was even rarer for someone from a BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] background.

“You don’t see a lot of people from ethnically diverse communities, and it’s important to change that and see people from all backgrounds. You just don’t see a lot of people who look like me – and it’s important to change that and see people from all backgrounds.”

She continued: “I am used to elements of racism generally and I know there are boroughs of London where I just won’t fit in, and where people will stare and avoid me.

“Obviously I’m just starting to make my way in the profession, and I suppose I’ll learn as I go if discrimination is something I’ll come across, but I’m hoping things will be positive.”

The Vets Now scholarship is one of the welcome ways of trying to address the concerning situation.

Impact

Heather Kirkness, Vets Now’s acting head of clinical nursing, said: “We had a really positive response to our scholarship announcement and we are looking forward to making even more of an impact in years to come by increasing the number of spaces available.

“We are working across the university sector to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the scholarship, as well as making use of social media channels.

“Encouraging diversity is greatly important to us, and this scholarship is part of our commitment to embed a culture of diversity and inclusion within our teams to reflect the wider communities we serve.”

She continued: “It helps remove financial barriers to that crucial first step into higher education, and ensure vet nurses from all backgrounds are able to benefit from the wide range of opportunities that exist both in our company and the wider sector.

“This is another step towards building a culture that respects diversity and inclusion, and improving conditions for future generations.”

IVC Evidensia has also introduced a new scholarship scheme for undergraduates from ethnic minority backgrounds to study to become vets.

Visible opportunities

The first dozen scholars are now in place and the industry leader’s Ethnic Diversity Board insists they will be the vanguard of an ongoing push to change the face of the profession.

Miss Tamjidi is hugely supportive of the vet nursing scheme. She said: “I think it’s really important to have a scheme like this that helps to bring a variety into the profession. But we also need to make sure people from diverse ethnic backgrounds are made aware of it.

“My older sister helped me find the scholarship and I think that quite often those who come from BAME backgrounds don’t find these opportunities. So, we need to make sure that they are circulated in the right circles.”

Although she has only just begun her vet nursing journey, Miss Tamjidi is convinced she has made the right choice. She said: “I want to be in the frontline of helping and working with animals, and I know vet nursing will let me do that. My ultimate dream is to work with wild animals, perhaps on a nature reserve.”

  • This article was supplied by Vets Now.

Reference

RCVS (2019). The 2019 survey of the veterinary profession, https://bit.ly/33clC46