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Peer mentoring – paying it forward

Written by: Katey Middleton
Published on: 1 Mar 2024

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Image © BillionPhotos.com / Adobe Stock

If there was ever a cure for imposter syndrome, it has to be teaching.

It is only when tasked with passing on our knowledge to someone else that we realise just how much we know, and we nurses understand so much about clinical practice – probably way more than we think we do.

So, nurses playing a role in teaching vet students should be commonplace, right? Informally, yes. Well, the new vet school at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has placed RVNs right into the heart of its curriculum by choosing nurses, as well as vets, to be clinical tutors for its brand-new cohort, and I am lucky enough to have been given this opportunity.

I have completed the first phase of the training, which is online, and tackles subjects such as well-being and inclusion, and guides me to demonstrate to students the importance of diligent notetaking and gaining informed consent.

The in-built empathy we have as nurses is vital for teaching because you cannot hope to guide another human through this world without it; they must feel safe to ask you questions, and not worry about being made to feel stupid or silly.

Diversification

UCLan has also made changes in the qualifications required for entry: no longer the standard “three As at A-level” approach, but opening up our world to those previously excluded, with the hope that by diversifying the intake of new vets, we can start to diversify the profession from the ground up, and nurses are not just an afterthought in this brave new world, but invited to shape it.

The vet students from UCLan spend time in practice from year one. This means every member of staff, not just clinical tutors, must be mindful of the way we conduct ourselves, and our language, as everyone will have a hand in shaping these students into the vets, and people, they will become.

At first, this was met with suspicion; we cannot say what is on our mind, we cannot vent or disagree, and we must present a perfect image of our practice to these students.

But that isn’t what they require at all. UCLan wants its students to experience a non-sterile environment, an insight into a real vet practice, run by real people, with all the highs and lows, and emotion that come with it.

The only language that would ever need to be curbed is that representative of sexism, racism and other similar hurtful statements, that should not be aired in a workplace, or a decent society, anyway.

UCLan feels this approach can only benefit the students, as it recognises that nursing students, with their vast swathes of time spent in practice, are a lot more “day one competent” than vet students – who spend the majority of their course in university – both in practical skills and in the nuances of human interaction in an emotive setting such as veterinary medicine.