Building on research undertaken by and in 2017, the RCVS Mind Matters initiative has published the results of a survey which found that 96% of student and newly qualified veterinary nurses feel that bullying and incivility are a serious problem in the profession.

The work done by and attempted to identify the sorts of unpleasant behaviour that veterinary surgeons and and nurses found themselves on the receiving end of, and the impact that it had on them. It was not, however, able to quantify the prevalence of these types of behaviour other than to the extent that there were 677 reports. 

The new survey of over 650 vet nurses and student vet nurses found that not only did 96% agree or strongly agree that bullying and incivility is a serious problem in the profession, but 70% of respondents had personally experienced a mental health concern as a result.

Other findings from the survey were:

  • 20% of respondents had witnessed or experienced discrimination in an educational setting and around 33% of respondents had witnessed or experienced discrimination in a practice setting
  • Only 18% of respondents said they believed that veterinary nursing is a well-respected profession
  • 82% said that they thought veterinary nursing was a stressful career.
  • Just over half (51%) feel positive about their future in veterinary nursing
    However, the survey suggested there was a good level of awareness within the profession about how to access mental health support, with three-quarters (75%) of respondents saying that they knew where to access support for mental health if they need it and almost three-quarters (70%) found their clinical coach supportive.

The full findings of the survey will be revealed at the MMI Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum, taking place on Wednesday 3rd November.

Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss the challenges highlighted in the survey and how they can be addressed. The results will also be published at a session led by Jill McDonald, VN Futures Project Coordinator at BVNA Congress, taking place Saturday 2nd  – Monday 4th October.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “A number of our survey findings are extremely concerning, particularly the high levels of bullying, incivility and discrimination reported by participants. We conducted the survey with the intention of finding out more about what systemic issues across workplace practices were impacting on the profession’s mental health.

"We want to thank everyone who took part and shared their experiences with us. There were some upsetting accounts shared with us about experiences of bullying and discrimination – no one should go through this at any point in their life, let alone at their place of work.

"Decisive action needs to be taken to tackle this and we will be using the findings of the survey to help form our 2022-2027 strategy and decide what resources and training we create for the profession. Supporting the wellbeing of veterinary nurses and student veterinary nurses is one of our key priorities, and will be part of all future MMI activities.”

“I would encourage as many veterinary nurses and student veterinary nurses as possible to attend the upcoming Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum and our session at BVNA to have your voice heard about what steps need to be taken to improve the mental wellbeing of the profession.

"We recognise that these results may bring some difficult emotions to the fore for many people, and we would encourage anyone who has experienced bullying or discrimination to seek help from an organisation such as Vetlife or the National Bullying Helpline.

"I would urge anyone who witnesses bullying or discrimination in the workplace to speak out, wherever it is safe to do so. This takes immense courage, but it is only by calling out this behaviour that it can begin to be addressed. We will be launching Active Bystander training in early 2022, to equip people with the confidence to call out unacceptable behaviour, and the skills to proactively support colleagues who have been targeted.”

Matthew Rendle, Chair of the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council, added: “As a veterinary nurse some of these results were a difficult read and I would like to thank those student vet nurses and newly qualified vet nurses who came forward with great honesty and bravery with their views and experiences, as it couldn’t have been easy.

“We take these matters very seriously and opening up the conversation is an important first step. I hope that, following these results, we can take look at things such as strengthening reporting mechanisms for bullying and discrimination and encouraging better workplace practices to mitigate against these incidents.

“While it’s easy to focus on the negatives, I do think that these survey results have given us positive steps to build on, not least that people know how to access mental health support so they’re not suffering in silence and the role that our amazing clinical coaches are playing in supporting people with their mental health, and how we can better give them the tools for this support.”

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