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Where is the nursing profession going next?

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By Adele Waters

‘We need to speak with one voice as a veterinary profession about where we want nursing to go. What is our end destination for the next 10, 15, 20 years?’

That was the call from vet nurse Fiona Andrew, lead of a new task force set up to review vet nursing and what the role of a vet nurse could look like in the future.

‘Where are we going next?’ she asked an audience at last week’s BVA congress, held during London Vet Show.

If we could scrap the legislation and start again, what would it look like for us now?

‘Let’s do some blue-sky thinking. If we could scrap the legislation and start again, what would it look like for us? We need [to identify] the endpoint.’

The task force is being jointly run by the BVA and the British Veterinary Nursing Association and received a soft launch at their congresses. Vet professionals will be invited to contribute their ideas next year.

Some changes to advance nursing roles will require legislation but that was no need to stall the project, said Andrew, since both professions needed to agree a future vision first.

‘We know things are challenging politically at the moment but when we do get that time to speak to politicians, we need to speak as a profession with one voice about where it is we want to go.’

The task force will be made up of members from across the profession. Together they will invite ideas and produce a position document on the role and direction of veterinary nursing for the future. It will also aim to produce a definition of veterinary nursing.

Key questions to be explored are how nursing roles can be advanced so that the profession does not lose valuable talent such as those who undertake further study to Masters level, for example.

‘We are a distinct profession and we have those distinct responsibilities. And we need to have a legislative framework that allows us to grow with the inevitable technological changes and social changes that are coming over the horizon,’ Andrew said.

At the launch, discussion also focused on how the nursing contribution can be more explicitly recognised.

Vet and former BVA president Robin Hargreaves, who is on the task force, said this could easily be done via social media and he gave an example from his own practice.

‘We recently treated a dog in my practice who was rushed in and spent four days in hospital before he went home 100 per cent well. We got a fabulous message on our Facebook page and we responded by identifying who was actually responsible for 9/10th of saving that dog,’ he said.

‘The dog crashed at tea time on the second day and we got him back from the edge. All I did was say to the nursing team “do what you just suggested you do” and the dog was saved.

‘He was with us for four days, under relatively constant care but the veterinary input was probably 5 per cent. After the initial identification of what the problem was, it was about nurse management [management of shock] and we simply stood back and let the experts do their stuff. But we had the opportunity to tell the client that and put it in the public domain that this was a nurse-led case.’

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