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Raising concerns about a practice or colleague
  1. British Veterinary Association

Abstract

As this year's crop of new graduates begin their first jobs in practice, the BVA offers some advice on how they might deal with any concerns about the way their practice or colleagues work

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AS a new graduate you will find yourself in a very different situation from what you were familiar with as a student. Your new practice may do things differently from the way you were taught, or from how you saw things done when seeing practice. However, ‘different’ is not automatically wrong and it is important to assess a situation carefully.

Different approaches to a case may lead to equally good results, so it is important to keep an open mind before condemning a colleague in your own mind or, even more importantly, to others. Your colleagues have had the same rigorous training that you have had and their views and opinions should be respected. ‘Old fogies’ may not have your cutting-edge knowledge, but they have many years of practical experience.

The Veterinary Benevolent Fund's (VBF's) Vetlife website may also be of help in locating information and sources of help on a wide variety of problems, including stress, drink, bankruptcy and much more.

On the other hand, it is possible that you might see colleagues practising in ways that you know quite well have been superseded or are below a standard that could be considered reasonable, and it is even possible (although extremely unlikely) that you will find your new colleagues, or even your employer, acting unethically, cruelly, fraudulently or illegally.

Seeking advice

The person whose behaviour is worrying you might be a member of the support staff, a fellow assistant or a partner, and your approach needs to be different for each. In the first instance, take a good hard look at the issue, preferably talking it over with a colleague. This could be a friend from college, via a posting on the Young Vet Network discussion forum, which you have the option of keeping anonymous, or even the Vet Helpline.

How to deal with the problem

There are no quick answers to a colleague's problematic behaviour, nor any sure-fire formulae. Each case must be judged on its merits depending on the nature of the conduct alleged, the status within the practice of the person concerned, their personality and the relationship that you have with them.

You could seek to clarify your responsibilities with the Professional Conduct Department at the RCVS. The Vet Helpline will also be able to give you advice; both are confidential although the RCVS has public responsibilities that may in extreme cases override that confidentiality

If you feel that a colleague may have a problem with drink or drugs, which is affecting their work, the Veterinary Surgeons' Health Support Programme, part of the VBF, is the best place to go for advice. They can help you decide if the symptoms which you are seeing are likely to be serious, and can take action to help the person concerned before their behaviour gives rise to a complaint to the RCVS.

Generally, the more serious the allegations against a colleague, the more careful you should be about making the allegation and the more formal your response should be. Whatever the situation, do not suffer in silence. If you have concerns about the practice or an employee within the practice, make sure you talk to someone about it, rather than keep the problem to yourself.

The BVA also has a guide to whistleblowing, which can be found at www.bva.co.uk/workplaceguidance

This information is a shortened version of advice that can be found in the Young Vet Network section of the BVA's website, www.bva.co.uk

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