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Progression and title protection: can we have one without the other?

Written by: Lyndsay Hughes
Published on: 1 Feb 2024

stethoscope heart

Image © Fabio Balbi / Adobe Stock

BVNA president Lyndsay Hughes, RVN discusses the association’s “Protect the Title” report and what else is being done to ensure things change for the better.

An enormous benefit of being in my position at the BVNA is that a wealth of history exists to draw on.

Last year, our 50th BVNA Congress highlighted this perfectly. It was such a privilege to have so many who have been trailblazers in our profession’s history, including past BVNA council members and presidents, together under one roof.

We were launched as an association in 1965, and it is not lost on me that this was just one year before the Veterinary Surgeons Act came into effect. It seems incredible that the legislation we were working under back in those early days – both as an association and a veterinary nursing profession – should still be the same as today.

In that time, we have all been part of the evolution of our profession into the highly skilled, rigorously trained and properly regulated workforce we are today.

Our expansive skillset means we are key assets to veterinary teams, whether in clinical or non-clinical roles, and beyond into industry. That skillset is only continuing to expand too, with RVNs creating more diverse career pathways than ever before.

Yet, we are still a profession where anyone, regardless of training, can use our title. The BVNA’s “Protect the Title” survey received more than 8,000 responses from the veterinary profession; of those, 48% knew someone using the “veterinary nurse” title despite not being registered with the RCVS.

The BVNA is doing more this year to better understand the exact scale of the issue; in the meantime, this early evidence highlights just how casually our hard-earned title is being used, and further fuels the need for legislation that truly protects our profession, to give us the respect our title deserves, and to enhance our recognition among the public, too.

We often hear from those who are frustrated at the apparent lack of progress being made in the profession; we hear you. However, like many forms of evolution, progress can be difficult to recognise while it is happening.

The BVNA will continue to campaign until our title is protected. In the past year alone, we have published our “Protect the Title” report, after more than 12,000 respondents completed our veterinary and public surveys.

We are continuing to engage with Defra, and we co-hosted a parliamentary drop-in event with the RCVS to educate MPs and peers on why our title needs protection.

We are continuing to collaborate with partners in the profession to drive awareness and, in 2024, we will be expanding our research to dive deeper into our initial survey results, launching a further MP engagement campaign, and leading conversations to gain additional support from the veterinary profession and the public.

However, as part of our incredible and skilled profession, you are also capable of driving positive progress. Why wait until legislative change occurs, when we could start having conversations now? How can you engage with your team to bring about progress at a practice level? How can clients be better educated on the vital role of the veterinary nursing team in your practice? What can we be doing as a profession to drive down this statistic of “48%”? By taking ownership of what we have the power to influence, we can be part of this change.

It is a testament to our profession that we have seen the progress we have while working under such outdated legislation. Just imagine what we could do with legislation that truly reflects who we are now, and our profession of the future, with a title reserved only for those who have earned it.