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MMI launches free, online mental health training programme for rural vets

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will be working with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England to deliver a free, online training programme for vets in isolated and rural areas across the UK, as well as vets working in ambulatory practice.

The training programme has been launched in recognition of some of the challenges that rural and ambulatory vets face, particularly around isolation and loneliness. This programme aims to form a network of UK-wide rural Mental Health First Aiders in the vet profession starting with rural geographies. It will bolster the understanding of common mental health conditions, help individuals identify signs of mental ill-health both in themselves and others, promote self-care and provide the tools for how to effectively support people experiencing poor mental health.

Angharad Belcher, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “Veterinary surgeons working in rural and ambulatory services are often integral members of their local communities with a deep connection with farmers, animal owners and the wider rural community. However, as MMI-funded research conducted by Scotland’s Rural College with vets has demonstrated, veterinary work in such areas can often be very challenging which is compounded by working alone or having relatively limited contact with professional colleagues.

“Effective early intervention in cases of mental ill-health and distress can have significant impacts, and so this course will arm participants with the relevant knowledge of how to identify mental health issues and will allow them to signpost people to the most effective and relevant sources of help.”

Vicki Cockman, Head of Client Delivery at MHFA England, said: “It is wonderful to see the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s commitment to reaching all its vets in the UK, no matter their location. MHFA England is proud to be working with RCVS on this initiative. Our evidence based Mental Health First Aid training gives people an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing.

“This approach will help vets support the communities that they work closely with and help them manage their own mental health. Those trained will have the confidence to start a conversation, reassure and support a person in distress and the tools to create and consider their own self-care strategies.”

The free training, fully funded by MMI, will be delivered online in four sessions which are each two-and-a-half hours long. They require around 90 mins of work beforehand and the groups will be split into morning and afternoon sessions, both receiving the same training. MMI will be announcing its plans for a rural network shortly and welcomes all veterinary professionals with mental health first aid training, regardless of training provider, to join it.

The dates of the training sessions are Monday 11, Tuesday 12, Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 July. Registrations to join the course need to be made by the 5pm Friday 17 June and can be made via the MMI training page. For those who are unsure about joining the course, MHFA England has organised an online question and answers session ahead of the application date at 7pm on Tuesday 7 June. To attend the Q & A contact Lacey Pitcher, Mind Matters Outreach and Engagement Senior Officer on l.pitcher@rcvs.org.uk.

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MMI and VMG announce joint initiative to train veterinary managers on mental health in the workplace

A new joint training initiative from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and the Veterinary Management Group (VMG) will aim to educate veterinary leaders and managers on mental health in the workplace.

The collaboration will be delivered by the VMG’s online learning platform and can either be taken as a free standalone module, or as a module for those already undertaking VMG’s accredited veterinary leadership and management qualifications.

The module will be delivered via online resources and reading materials and two case study-based online workshops delivered by Mind Matters Manager Lisa Quigley to consolidate and contextualise the online learning materials. The first workshop will cover the Equality Act, mental health and reasonable adjustments, while the second will cover return to work for those who have taken time off due to mental ill-health and how to plan for their continued safety and wellness.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, explains: “We’re very thankful to VMG for integrating our mental health training materials onto their online platform and in their popular courses. Attitudes and behaviours towards colleagues with mental ill-health are influenced by those at the top. Direct line managers play an absolutely crucial role in our wellbeing and mental health, therefore equipping managers with these tools is an essential part in improving and supporting the mental health of the veterinary workforce.

“If veterinary managers and leaders have been trained in legal obligations and how to properly support colleagues and reintegrate them back into working life, then we can hopefully see a culture shift throughout the professions to make a place where veterinary professionals can continue to work and indeed thrive as veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.”

The standalone module is expected to be launched soon – if anyone wants to express an interest in taking part in the module they can contact Hannah Perrin, VMG Learning & Development Manager, on hannah.perrin@vetmg.com or visit the MMI training page.

Further information about the VMG’s veterinary leadership and management course, visit the VMG website.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 - hand extended to sitting person illustration

MMI marks Mental Health Awareness Week with Creative Connections Competition

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) is marking this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week with the launch of a competition about how we can remain connected with ourselves and others through the power of creativity.

Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 9 to Sunday 15 May 2022) was founded by the Mental Health Foundation 21 years ago and is an annual event to help focus the conversation around mental health on a particular issue that is affecting the nation’s mental health and how it can be alleviated.

This year’s theme is loneliness, an issue that has been recently exacerbated by the pandemic, and will look at the relationship between loneliness and mental ill-health and how making connections with other people and within communities is key to tackling the problem.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, MMI will be focussing on the importance of community, togetherness, and meaningful connections for tackling loneliness within the veterinary community.

Want to get involved?

After the success of MMI’s Mental Health Awareness Week nature photo competition last year, it will be launching another creative contest this year to raise awareness of the impacts of loneliness and the ways in which the veterinary community can come together to tackle it.

The competition, running until Friday 3 June, is open to all members of the veterinary team and will be centred around the theme of Creative Connections. Photographs, artwork, creative writing, or any other media that demonstrates how creativity and ingenuity can bring people together are all welcome. Those who wish to enter the competition should email their entry to the MMI team at info@vetmindmatters.org, along with a short explanation about the submission, what connection means to them and why it is important for their mental health and wellbeing.

Lisa Quigley, MMI Manager, said: “It is important to remember that loneliness is not necessarily about physical isolation, it is about feeling disconnected emotionally and socially from the world around us even if we are in a crowded room or working a busy shift at a veterinary practice. Covid has significantly added to what’s called by some a ‘loneliness epidemic’, and other factors such as stress, tiredness and lack of confidence or low self-esteem, as well as living with mental health conditions or poor emotional wellbeing, can all add to feelings of loneliness.

“Finding creative ways of forging new connections outside of our usual routines – whether it’s taking up a new or existing hobby or finding a way of talking to people who may be feeling similar – is vital to tackling loneliness. I really look forward to seeing this year’s submissions from the professions and hope that the participation of us and others in this year’s events help people realise they are not alone.”

In addition to the competition, on Thursday 12 May, MMI will be bringing its popular spring 2022 series of Campfire Chats to a close with a Mental Health Awareness Week special, ‘Tackling Loneliness in a Hyperconnected World.’

MMI will also be releasing a short collection of blogs, featuring a range of guest writers from across the veterinary professions, who will be sharing their thoughts on loneliness, the importance of coming together, and their favourite ways of keeping connected.

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New collaboration to empower vet nurses to challenge incivility and encourage sustainable changes in the workplace

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has collaborated with VetLed, a leading provider of Human Factors skills training for veterinary professionals and the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), to lead a series of initiatives that aim to tackle incivility in the workplace and encourage work environments that make employee wellbeing a priority.

The recently launched Civility Training sessions are the first activities of this collaboration that explore how civility can be addressed in the workplace and the impacts that incivility can have across the whole veterinary team. The training was launched in response to MMI research into Student Vet Nurses, which revealed that 96% of student and recently graduated veterinary nurses said that they believed that incivility and bullying were serious problems in the profession.

As well as civility training, MMI and BVNA have collaborated with VetLed on the forthcoming “VetLed Safe to Speak Up campaign” which will launch on 2 May. The campaign aims to empower all members of the veterinary team to talk openly about their mistakes, concerns and new ideas by raising awareness of the importance of psychological safety. Psychological safety is the belief that there won’t be negative repercussions as a result of vocalising thoughts, ideas or concerns, and is an incredibly beneficial value for practices to adopt. Safe to Speak Up will include social media campaign that raises awareness of the benefits of psychological safety and provides advice for how workplaces and individuals can apply psychological safety in their practice.

The Safe to Speak Up campaign will also feature a day of interactive workshops focussed on psychological safety. Taking place on 11 May, the day will include free-to-attend sessions from VetLed that will explain what psychological safety is and how it can be created and maintained in practice. You can book your workshop place here.

The third part of the collaboration will include a series of four Veterinary Nurse Think Tanks; 90-minute interactive learning and discussion sessions that cover key Human Factor themes. The upcoming free workshops include:

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “We have listened carefully to the feedback from our surveys and consultations to ensure we continue to deliver resources that tackle the wellbeing issues that VNs have concerns about. We are pleased to have partnered with two brilliant organisations that are as passionate about improving the mental health and resilience of the profession as we are. Every single vet nurse should feel comfortable and psychologically supported in their role, and we hope that the training and awareness campaigns that we are running over the upcoming year will ensure that more VNs will feel empowered to talk about their mental health and wellbeing at work.”

Alex Taylor, BVNA President, said: “The BVNA are so pleased to be part of the Civility Training, Think Tanks, and Safe to Speak Up Campaign, especially as these fall in line with our current theme of ‘building resilience’. We recognise how important the mental health of veterinary nurses is, not just for their own wellbeing, but for the good of the workforce too. We are very much looking forward to working alongside MMI and Vetled who will help to provide support and guidance on these important areas for veterinary nurses over the next year.”

Helen Silver-MacMahon, Research and Development Director at VetLed, said: “VetLed are delighted to be collaborating with MMI and BNVA to ensure that all members of the veterinary team are able to access training which promotes the importance of civility and psychological safety in practice and enables them to feel and function at their best. We look forward to running four, very special, Think Tanks for veterinary nurses over the coming year and raising awareness of how Human Factors can empower veterinary nurses to lead positive and practical change in practice.”

Visit the MMI Training Page for more on MMI Training offerings and to book onto a VetLed Civility Training session.

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MMI launches a suite of new, free training opportunities for the veterinary professions

We have launched a new suite of free training opportunities for the veterinary team based around feedback received from the professions in our recent consultations and surveys, as well as the MMI strategic aims.

In total, four new courses have been launched, all of which are responding to areas of identified need and aim to improve not only the mental health and wellbeing of individuals, but look at ways of improving workplace culture to the benefit of all in the profession.

The courses, which are all free, are:

  • VetLed Civility Training: this course has been informed by a survey conducted in 2021 with student veterinary nurses, recently-qualified RVNs, and clinical coaches which found that 96% of respondents felt bullying and incivility was a problem in the professions. The interactive training sessions will look at the importance of civility in practice, how to recognise incivility and understand its impacts, and identify the ways in incivility can successfully be addressed.
  • Introduction to diversity, equity, inclusion and unconscious bias: this training course aligns with the MMI strategic aim that recognises how mental health and wellbeing is inextricably linked with ensuring people from all backgrounds are treated equally and fairly and are made to feel welcome and included in the veterinary workplace. The workshops are run by The Hobbs Consultancy and will raise awareness of the challenges in this area, provide information and practical tips on how to reduce unconscious bias, and ultimately improve overall working culture.
  • Managing stress in veterinary practice: this course is based around the concept of ‘mental fitness’, which is defined as the capacity to respond to life’s challenges with a positive rather than a negative mindset. The three hour course is run by equine vet Mark Tabachnik, the Clinical Director of IVC Evidensia who is also a professional mental health coach, and recognises the stressful nature of veterinary work while looking at the neuroscience of stress and how the professions can use and react to stress in a positive way.
  • Inclusive leadership: this course, also run by The Hobbs Consultancy, will support veterinary leaders in creating a more inclusive workplace, recognising that leaders are the key actors in establishing compassionate and inclusive working environments for all. This workshop will provide practical tips on how to adopt an inclusive leadership style, and explore the ways in which these behaviours pave the way for an inclusive workplace culture in which teams can thrive.

Speaking of the launch of these new training opportunities, MMI Manager Lisa Quigley commented: “We’ve already seen an amazing response from the professions to these courses and so thank you to all those who have signed up so far. Some of our courses are now fully booked and so to those who haven’t yet had the opportunity, rest assured that more dates will be forthcoming.

“I am really proud of this new tranche of training. Whereas our previous training has focused on the individual experience, for example, mental health awareness and resilience, these new courses recognise that individual instances of poor mental health and wellbeing can often be caused by systemic issues – whether that’s a poor workplace culture where bullying and incivility thrive, or discrimination on account of someone’s protected characteristics.

“I do hope those attending these courses find them useful and we will, of course, be taking on any feedback so that we can continue to develop and improve them as we go along.”

The full range of courses, including the dates and times and details on how to register, can be found on our training webpage.

We’d love to hear the feedback you have about any of the courses on info@vetmindmatters.org

MMI celebrates neurodiversity in the veterinary professions with range of new initiatives and events

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will be marking Neurodiversity Celebration Week (21 to 27 March) by launching a new ‘neurodiversity resource hub’ area of its website and adding new modules on the topic to its popular MMI Kite App.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences, and the neurodiversity resource hub aims to help members of the veterinary professions better understand how, for over one million people in the UK, neurological differences mean they learn and think in a way that is different to what is considered ‘neurotypical’.

Among the resources contained in the hub is information about neurological conditions closely associated with neurodivergence such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dyspraxia and dyslexia, as well as information for employers about neurodiversity, including inclusive working tools and sources of government support.

A new ‘kite’ with six new modules are also being added to the MMI Kite App – a specialist microlearning platform for topics related to veterinary wellbeing – that deal specifically with issues related to neurodiversity. The six modules cover: what is neurodiversity; the importance of talking about neurodiversity; different types of neurodiversity; bespoke considerations for neurodivergent individuals; how neurodivergence can lead to innovation through thinking differently; and, exploring further how different brains work and how we can make our brains work best for us.

During the course of Neurodiversity Celebration Week the MMI website will also be publishing a blog by Dr Kirstie Pickles, Clinical Assistant Professor in Equine Medicine at the University of Nottingham, about her current MMI-funded research investigating the various workplace stressors that affect autistic veterinary professionals and what adjustments can be introduced to mitigate these stressors.

Furthermore, during the Wellbeing Zone at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress on Saturday 26 March between 3pm and 4pm, MMI has organised a discussion session on neurodiversity. The discussion will be led by Roxanne Hobbs, a consultant in workplace inclusion particularly around neurodiversity, and will look at how to nurture and cultivate neurodiversity in the veterinary professions.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, said: “As a project focused on the mental health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals, the Mind Matters project has a commitment to recognising and providing a space for all forms of diversity, and so we are very glad to be supporting Neurodiversity Celebration Week again this year. This commitment to diversity will form a key part of our forthcoming strategic plan, and this mission has also recently been strengthened by the findings of both our recent survey n our strategic proposals, and the survey with student VNs from last year which identified this as an area where people wanted more support.

“We know that different brains function differently and that this isn’t wrong or problematic, but represents the many different ways of understanding, thinking and learning that we all encounter in work and in life. There is huge strength to be found in diversity of thinking, however, we know that neurodivergent individuals may sometimes face challenges, and so  it is vital to ensure that all individuals working in the veterinary professions feel supported to be who they are in order to thrive in the workplace.

“We hope that our neurodiversity resource hub and our other initiatives during Neurodiversity Celebration Week will be useful source of information for everyone and will aid people in understanding neurodivergence, how it can manifest and how it can be supported in the workplace and educational settings.”

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New report released detailing mental health research presented at third Mind Matters Initiative Symposium

A report has been published detailing the proceedings of last November’s Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Research Symposium, where attendees from across the veterinary professions joined MMI for a day of virtual talks given by mental health and wellbeing researchers from across the globe.

The symposium, which took place on 24 November 2021, was introduced by Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Taskforce, who welcomed almost 100 delegates to the first MMI Symposium held entirely online.

The plenary speaker was Professor Rory O’Connor, Chair of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health & Wellbeing whose talk, ‘When it is darkest: understanding suicide risk’ opened the day with an outline of his 25 years of work looking into suicide prevention. Throughout his talk, Rory discussed his recent investigation into the immediate and medium-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing, the science behind the Integrated Motivational-Volitional (IMV) models of suicidal behaviour and how to reduce the risk of suicidal ideation turning into suicidal action. Rory also touched on how vets are three to four times more likely than the general population to die by suicide.

Professor O’Connor said: “In the last 10 to 15 years there has been an increased focus in particular on psychological and psycho-social interventions for helping people who are suicidal. Although suicide is complex, interventions, even brief interventions, can be effective.”

There were also presentations from the research teams who had been awarded the MMI’s Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant in 2019 and 2020. The grant is a £20,000 fund that has been given every year since 2019 to a research project (or projects) that plan to investigate an area of veterinary mental health. The teams that presented their findings were:

  • Dr Victoria Crossley and Dr Navaratnam Partheeban Experiences of racism and its impacts on mental wellbeing in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people working and studying in the UK veterinary sector. Their talk outlined the lack of diversity in the veterinary professions and how their research aimed to understand how experiences of racism impacted BAME people working and studying in the veterinary sector.
  • Dr Victoria Williamson – Experiences and impact of moral injury in UK veterinary professional wellbeing. This talk outlined what moral injury was, how experiencing it could impact a person’s mental health and how morally injurious events impacted veterinary teams’ mental wellbeing.
  • Dr Kate Stephen – How farm vets cope: An exploration of how vets cope with the daily challenges of farm animal practice and how best these coping mechanisms might be developed into tools which can be easily accessed by the livestock veterinary community. This talk outlined what Kate’s team found in interviews with 31 farm vets, including students who had recently moved from vet school to farm practice. Their research found there were three ‘trigger points’ which led to a farm vet’s mental health deteriorating, which Kate discussed in detail in her talk. She concluded by outlining what employers could do to support the work/life balance of farm vets better.

The Sarah Brown Mental Health Grant talks were followed by a series of presentations from researchers and research teams from across the world. The talks were split into a number of streams spanning the morning and afternoon sessions, giving attendees the opportunity to choose which sessions they wanted to listen to. The presentations were:

  • Camille K Y Chan from the University of Hong Kong: Cyberbullying and mental wellbeing of veterinarians in Hong Kong;
  • Makenzie Peterson MSc from Wellbeing at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC): Veterinary intern and resident wellbeing;
  • Dr Nadine Hamilton: Understanding and supporting veterinary mental health;
  • Dr Brad Hill from the University of Nottingham: Integrated mental health awareness in the veterinary undergraduate curriculum;
  • Sabine Tötemeyer from the University of Nottingham: Perception and impact of online mental health awareness teaching in year one during the pandemic;
  • Fergus Mitchell a vet student from the University of Nottingham: The effects of an exercise programme on the mental wellbeing of veterinary students;
  • Anna Garrity from Medivet, Orrell Park: Do registered veterinary nurses feel stigmatised by acknowledging stress and accessing support?;
  • Mark Turner, independent quality improvement researcher: The relationship between patient safety culture and staff burnout. conundrum or cure?
  • Charlotte Bullard from the British Veterinary Nursing Association: Mindset, resilience and perception of reactions to workplace challenge in RVNs;
  • Kris van den Bogaard from MSD Animal Health: Explanatory research on satisfaction in the Dutch veterinary practice;
  • Dr Kirstie Pickles from the University of Nottingham: Students’ perceptions of using two mental health apps during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Sabine Tötemeyer and Georgina Bladon from the University of Nottingham: On using a co-created interactive game to engage students with mental health awareness;
  • Sharon Cooksey, PhD student at the University of Liverpool: Emotional intelligence and its relationship with work engagement amongst veterinary surgeons in UK veterinary practice;

The day concluded with a talk by Professor Susan Dawson, who gave an overview of what MMI had achieved since its launch in 2015, and the ambitious plans MMI has for its next five-year strategy with its focus on: research; supporting students; the veterinary nursing profession; equality, diversity, inclusion & civility; and widening the conversation beyond mental health awareness. A consultation on the MMI Strategy is currently ongoing and can be accessed via our resources page.

Susan ended the day by explaining that MMI would continue to work with different organisations from across the veterinary industry to keep mental health at the forefront of people’s minds, to break down stigma and move towards a more positive future for the professions.

The full report of the day’s talks can be found here.

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Time to talk about important issues with new series of MMI Campfire Chats

To coincide with Mind’s Time to Talk Day (Thursday 3 February 2022), a day that encourages people to talk openly with friends and family about mental health, we are announcing a new series of our popular Campfire Chats.

This series of informal discussions on matters related to veterinary health and wellbeing that was successfully launched and ran for two series last year. The new series comprises six online discussions taking place over the course of the spring, covering everything from diversity to creativity to identity.

The upcoming programme of events is as follows:

  • Tuesday 1 March 2022 7pm to 8pm: Celebrating diversity – this discussion is chaired by Gurpreet Gill, RCVS Leadership & Inclusion Manager, and takes place on the United Nation’s Zero Discrimination Day. Panel members Lacey Pitcher RVN, Dr Olivia Anderson-Nathan MRCVS and Samantha Payne RVN will be discussing what celebrating diversity means to people, exploring how this links to mental health, and sharing their thoughts on why – and how – the professions should be working towards greater inclusivity, both in and out of the workplace.
  • Monday 21 March 2022 7pm to 8pm: The joy of creativity – this discussion will look at why creativity is so important for people’s lives and how it can be used to support mental health and wellbeing with a panel comprising Dr Silvia Janksa MRCVS and Olivia Oginska MRCVS.
  • Tuesday 5 April 2022 7pm to 8pm: Overcoming self-doubt and stressing out – timed to coincide with the start of Stress Awareness Month in April, this discussion will consider the main causes of stress in the veterinary workforce and how this may have shifted throughout the pandemic. The discussion will encompass coping strategies, the ways in which stress can be channelled in a more constructive way, and overcoming feelings of self-doubt.
  • Thursday 21 April 2022 7pm to 8pm: Identity – who am I away from work? –  with the multi-layered nature of identity in mind, this discussion will consider to what extent veterinary professionals should let their careers define them, the importance of understanding oneself in and out of a work setting, and how people can learn to value, accept, and appreciate their whole selves.
  • Tuesday 3 May 2022 7pm to 8pm: Saying goodbye…letting go and learning to grow – this discussion will consider how best to cope with the various types of loss that may be encountered in an individual’s professional and personal life, and how to learn, adapt and grow from these losses.
  • Thursday 12 May 2022 7pm to 8pm: Tackling loneliness in a hyperconnected world – this event takes place during Mental Health Awareness Week, for which the theme  this year is loneliness – its mental health impact and how it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. This Campfire Chat will discuss why meaningful connection and having a sense of belonging matters, and how individuals and communities can tackle loneliness in a hyperconnected world.

Angharad Belcher, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, commented: “We are very glad to be launching this new series of Campfire Chats on Time for Talk Day. Our topics for this year are based on the ideas that we have received from previous attendees. We all lead busy professional and personal lives and sometimes it means that self-care, which includes talking to others about how we’re feeling and about issues that we find important to us, can fall by the wayside.

“Our Campfire Chats offer a perfect opportunity – and excuse – to take a bit of time out of your schedule to engage in a structured but informal discussion about all manner of subjects, expertly led by a chair and panel with experience, lived and otherwise, on the topic being talked about.

“These events are for the whole veterinary team, we keep the sessions very informal, and there is also the opportunity to share or ask questions of the panel. If you’ve not attended before then please sign up, and if you have then we look forward to welcoming you back.”

Members of the professions can sign up to the first session of the new series of Campfire Chats. More information about the later events will be put online as and when details are confirmed.

For further information about the events contact Abi Hanson, Mind Matters Initiative Officer, on a.hanson@rcvs.org.uk

Graphic illustration of workplace activity with VN Futures and MMI logos

Report released with highlights and key outcomes from the recent Student Veterinary Wellbeing Discussion Forum

Today (19 January) the Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) and VN Futures have released a report which details the key discussions from their recent Student Veterinary Nurse (SVN) Wellbeing Discussion Forum and what next steps the profession needs to take to improve the mental wellbeing of student and recently qualified vet nurses.

The event was organised following the results of an MMI survey of 650 student veterinary nurses, recently qualified veterinary nurses and clinical coaches which revealed that the overwhelming majority of the people surveyed felt that bullying and incivility were serious problems in the profession. The Discussion Forum’s programme was structured around the survey results, which revealed four key areas that were impacting the mental wellbeing of the profession. These four key areas were:

  • Incivility and bullying – The MMI survey results revealed that 96% of respondents felt like incivility and bullying were a problem within the vet nursing profession. The survey also indicated that many of the accounts of bullying were instances of people in senior positions acting poorly towards people in more junior roles.
  • Juggling demands – Many people said the demands of their work were affecting their wellbeing, and some revealed they didn’t even have time to eat or use the toilet when they were at work. 81% said that they found their job stressful.
  • Disability and chronic illness – One in three respondents identified as having a disability or chronic illness and one in five identified as neurodiverse. The survey revealed that respondents with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses were often made to feel like a burden, especially when requesting to shield during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Awareness, recognition and pride – 70% of respondents said that they felt they had chosen the right career and that they were passionate about looking after the animals committed to their care. However, there were recurring issues with the role that came through in the results of the survey, including low pay and lack of respect from the public and vets.

The Discussion Forum was attended by people from across all areas of veterinary nursing, including current students, clinical coaches, recently graduated vet nurses and employers. Throughout the day, attendees heard talks from:

  • Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, who confirmed that vet nursing and student mental wellbeing would be crucial streams in the MMI 2022 – 2027 strategy.
  • Dr Claire Hodgson MRCVS, co-founder of the British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support (BVCIS) organisation, and Alexandra Taylor RVN, current President of the BVNA, who outlined the challenges people with disabilities and chronic illnesses face and what the veterinary profession can do to support their staff.
  • Dr Simon Fleming, an NHS Trauma and Orthopaedic Registrar, explained the impact that bullying can have on the person being bullied and those who witness it. He also outlined what an effective intervention looks like and what the steps taken before formal disciplinary action should be.
  • Jane Davidson, RVN, discussed how to set healthy boundaries and the extent that these, and time management practises, can be applied in a vet nursing role.
  • Jill Macdonald, RVN and VN Futures Lead and Dr Laura Woodward MRCVS, a veterinary surgeon and psychotherapeutic counsellor, explored what pride means and how employers and the wider profession can encourage pride in vet nursing.

Attendees were then invited to join breakout discussion sessions, where they had opportunities to openly discuss their experiences and how they felt the profession could improve the mental wellbeing of vet nurses. The key outcomes from those discussions were:

  • More needed to be done to make it clear that the MMI is for the whole veterinary profession, not just vet surgeons.
  • There needed to be additional resources and training to educate employers and the wider veterinary professions about the legal rights for people with a chronic illness and/or disability in the workplace and their expectations in terms of reasonable adjustments.
  • Training needed to be given to help people understand how to address bullying in the workplace and that this should be given as early as their initial veterinary training.
  • Some students said they would not feel comfortable challenging a senior member of staff and said that they would benefit from having training in how to address the behaviour of someone in a senior position.
  • There needed to be a change in the culture around taking breaks and that staff should be actively encouraged to switch off during their break times.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said; “We’re really pleased that so many people attended our Wellbeing Forum and engaged with the discussion sessions. Throughout the discussions, some people shared difficult and personal experiences and we want to thank everyone for being so open and for being respectful to those who shared their stories. Student and veterinary nurse wellbeing will be key components of the 2022- 2027 MMI strategy, which we will be launching this spring. The forum discussions, survey results and feedback from the student vet nursing community will be incorporated into the survey and guide the resources, research and support we work on to help improve the mental wellbeing of the profession.”

Jill Macdonald, VN Futures Project Lead commented: “I want to thank all the attendees and speakers who gave up their time so they could join us at the Discussion Forum to share their expertise and lived experience. It was incredibly helpful to get multiple perspectives throughout the day on these issues. A key component of the VN Futures Project is safeguarding the future of the veterinary nursing profession and ensuring that vet nurses have fulfilling careers with opportunities for progression. The feedback we received during the Forum’s discussion sessions and the survey will help us form the actions we take to help improve the profession for current and future vet nurses, through MMI, the VN Futures project and the RCVS’s work with the VN community.”

The full report of the Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum can be found here www.vetmindmatters.org/SVN-report/

Lacey Pitcher

MMI warmly welcomes our newest team member

We’re delighted to introduce you to the newest member of the Mind Matters Initiative team, Lacey Pitcher. Lacey joins us as our Outreach and Engagement Senior Officer and will be involved with many of our ambitious and exciting projects for the year, including helping to create a new MMI training programme and leading on our student outreach and engagement.

Lacey grew up in a small town in South Wales surrounded by animals. Despite her initial plans to study Law, she decided to pursue a career in veterinary nursing. She started out as a kennel hand and worked her way up via three different nursing colleges and became a Registered Veterinary Nurse, in spite of chronic health challenges.

Lacey has worked in a variety of settings including emergency care and ICU, multidisciplinary referral, GP and charity practice and through these roles has built an extensive network within the veterinary community. Throughout her career, Lacey has explored the importance of connection and mental wellness and fulfilled a career goal by joining BVNA council in 2020.

Lacey is passionate about learning and personal growth, having launched her own wellbeing initiative a couple of years ago. The scheme, Veterinary Pay It Forward (VPIF) aims to spread kindness across the profession by asking people to nominate someone to receive an anonymously distributed care package as a way of showing their appreciation. The person who receives a package is then also encouraged to ‘pay the kindness forward’ by organising with VPIF for someone else to get care package. These can be anything from craft kits to candles – as long as it makes the recipient of the package smile.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “We are delighted to have Lacey join the team. The MMI’s activities and upcoming projects will benefit immensely from her veterinary nursing expertise and her passion for supporting the profession’s wellbeing. One of our key strategy areas is to focus on improving the mental wellbeing of the veterinary nursing profession, and having Lacey’s insight into the needs of the profession and links with VNs will be a huge asset as we develop our mental health training and support for vet nurses.”

Lacey lives in the Cotswolds and enjoys time in the countryside in-between working on numerous projects. Lacey is passionate about widening participation in the veterinary profession and exploring career versatility, which are key aims for some of the RCVS’s and MMI’s projects. If you’re attending a freshers fair this year you’ll likely see Lacey on the MMI stand, so make sure to pay her a visit and find out more about how you can get involved with our work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the veterinary team.

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Researchers invited to apply for £20,000 grant to fund mental health research project

The Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Sarah Brown Research Grant has today (17 January) opened up its applications for 2022’s funding. Awarded once a year since 2019, the £20,000 grant has already funded four projects that carried out innovative research into a range of mental health areas including neurodiversity, wellbeing amongst isolated farm vets, the impact of racism on mental health, and how moral injury can impact wellbeing. The latter two projects were both awarded the grant in 2020, after the judges found it impossible to pick between the two very impressive applications.

The grant was set up in memory of vet, RCVS Council member and mental health campaigner Sarah Brown and is an opportunity for mental health researchers at any stage of their career to apply for research funding. Applications on any area of veterinary mental health are welcome. However, particular interest will be shown to research projects that cover the MMI’s key areas of focus for their 2022 – 2027 strategy which include:

  • Students and new graduates
  • The veterinary nursing profession
  • Equality, diversity, inclusion, civility
  • Beyond mental health awareness
  • Leadership

As well as receiving funding for their research, previous winners have had opportunities to present their findings at conferences, including the MMI Symposium, and received support from the MMI and the RCVS to help promote their study and recruit volunteers.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager said: “We’re delighted to launch the Sarah Brown Research Grant funding applications for 2022. The grant is now in its fourth year and has been awarded in previous years to some incredible research projects, which have been led by passionate and talented researchers.

“I would encourage anyone with a mental health research idea, including students and those who are just starting out in their research careers to apply for the funding, as we will be judging applications based on their quality, originality and relevance to the profession rather than how much research experience the applicants have. Applications will be anonymised, so the judging panel won’t be able to see the applicant’s affiliations, prior publications or professional seniority.”

Over the coming weeks, MMI will be putting together and sharing resources to help applicants put together their proposals. These will include online guides, webinars and events on best practice, ethics and methodology in mental health research.

Anyone who would like to apply for the 2022 Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant will need to send a research proposal of no more than two pages to Lisa Quigley on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk by 5pm on Friday 20 May 2022. There is more information here about the Sarah Brown Research Grant, how to apply and support with putting together an application.

All applications will ideally include existing literature and background, hypothesis (or research questions for qualitative proposals), methods, analysis, proposed timeline, budget allocation, ethical considerations and dissemination. The winning application will be announced the week commencing 13 June and formally awarded at the RCVS Honours & Awards ceremony on Friday 8 July.

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MMI to host two webinars at upcoming Webinar Vet Virtual Congress

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) are hosting two webinar sessions on mental health and wellbeing at the 10th Webinar Vet Virtual Congress 2022 on 17 January. Taking place from 17 – 22 January 2022, the virtual event is the world’s largest online veterinary conference, and for the first time, all sessions are completely free to attend.

For this year’s congress, MMI has two speakers in the conference programme, who will present talks on vital areas of mental health and wellbeing followed by a brief Q&A. The times and details of the two MMI sessions are:

  • Dr Claire Gillvray – Understanding the mind body link and what we can learn from it – Monday 17 January, 7 to 8pm. Claire is a trained Psychiatrist and General Practitioner and has worked in the NHS and in Private Practice for over 20 years. She is also a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist and has an interest in the mental health of those within the veterinary profession. In her talk, she will outline the latest research into how we can support our mental health through exercise, diet, mindfulness, breathwork, talking therapies and anti-depressants.
  • Dr Catriona Mellor – Living with the climate Crisis: What do we need to know about eco anxiety, nature, wellbeing and resilience – Monday 17 January, 8 to 9pm. Catriona is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with an interest in the mental health impacts of the eco-crisis on children and young people as well as what nature-based practices and insights can add to mental health care. Her talk will cover some of the difficult thoughts and feelings associated with living at a time of climate and nature crisis, as well as what we can do for ourselves and each other to feel more resilient and optimistic.

As well as MMI, the conference also has speakers from the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Nationwide Laboratories and Investors in the Environment, who will be giving talks on areas including sustainability, reducing waste and hypercalcaemia in dogs and cats. Everyone who attends a session at the conference will also be able to download a certificate of completion, which can be used to count towards their CPD target for the year.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager said: “We are really pleased to be providing two speakers to give talks on the first day of the Webinar Vet conference on two very important and timely issues. I want to thank our speakers for sharing their expertise with the profession. I also want to thank the Webinar Vet Virtual Congress for recognising the challenging period that the veterinary professions have had and making this year’s sessions free to attend. I would encourage as many people as possible to register for the congress and seize the opportunity to hear from leading voices in mental wellbeing, as well as other key speakers in the veterinary sector.”

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MMI and BVNA to collaborate on upcoming webinar for Anti-Bullying Week 2021

The Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has collaborated with the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) to put together an upcoming webinar, taking place during Anti-Bullying Week 2021, about tackling incivility and bullying in the veterinary workplace.

The one-hour webinar will take place on Thursday 18 November at 7.30 PM and is entitled, ‘Why behaviour matters: what VNs/SVNs can do when faced with incivility & bullying’ where attendees can hear from speakers who are experienced at supporting people affected by bullying in the workplace.

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week 2021 is taking place between Monday 15 to Friday 19 November and aims to raise awareness of bullying and the ways that people can address and respond to bullies. Bullying can have a devastating impact on someone’s life and it is something that affects adults as well as school children. The webinar has been jointly organised following a recent MMI survey of student veterinary nurses, recently graduated veterinary nurses and clinical coaches where 96% of respondents said that they felt bullying was a serious problem in the professions.

During the webinar, Helen Silver-MacMahon, Senior Trainer at VetLed, and Nicky Ackerley from the BVNA Members Advisory Service will talk attendees through the extent of bullying in the veterinary profession, how VNs can find sources of support if they are being bullied and what techniques people can use in difficult situations to look after their wellbeing. After the webinar, MMI and BVNA will continue to collaborate on anti-bullying activities with a new training programme launching in 2022 for VNs and SVNs.

MMI recently held their Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Forum (3 November 2021), where people from across the veterinary nursing profession heard from a wide range of experts and took part in breakout discussions about numerous wellbeing areas, including bullying and incivility. A report of the event’s outcomes will be published in the near future, along with MMI’s new five-year strategy, which will have veterinary and student veterinary nurse wellbeing as a priority area.  

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “Bullying has no place in the veterinary professions. Each one of us has a role to play in calling out and addressing this unacceptable behaviour wherever it occurs. Our upcoming webinar is just the start of what I am sure will be an extremely fulfilling and positive collaboration with BVNA, who are as determined to address bullying in the workplace as we are. I would encourage everyone who has been affected by workplace bullying or wants to find out how to become a better ally to their colleagues who have experienced it in practice to attend our upcoming webinar and look out for further information on the training in the new year.”

Alex Taylor, President of the BVNA, said: “Bullying and incivility are too commonplace in the veterinary profession, which is why more awareness and action needs to be taken to tackle these issues. The BVNA’s collaboration with the RCVS MMI team and the BVNA members’ advisory service will help support those affected by bullying and provide guidance on where to look for support, as well as what action they can take if they feel they are being bullied or experience incivility in the workplace. I am really pleased that this serious, but important issue is at last being talked about, and I have no doubt that the support and advice given during Anti-Bullying Week and next year’s training sessions will be of great benefit to the veterinary nursing profession.”

Anyone interested in attending the upcoming webinar can register via our events page.

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Veterinary professionals are invited to gather round for our upcoming Mind Matters Campfire Chats

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative is continuing its series of ‘Campfire Chats’ this autumn and winter, providing members of the professions with the opportunity to take part in informal discussions about some of the crucial issues affecting veterinary health and wellbeing.

The upcoming sessions are as follows:

  • Thursday 28 October 2021 at 7pm – Managing Mental Health and Menopause: with studies consistently showing that around 80% of those who go through the menopause experience negative physical and mental health effects, with around 30% of these being moderate-to-severe, this discussion will be an open and honest conversation about menopause, mental health and the professions. The panel comprises: Liz Barton, a SPVS board member and co-founder of WellVet and the Vet Mums Facebook group; RCVS Junior Vice-President Melissa Donald who last year wrote a blog dealing with some of the issues and taboos around menopause; and Nikki Ruedisueli, a veterinary nurse educator who is currently Head of Learning & Development at the BVNA.
  • Wednesday 17 November 2021 at 7pm – Combatting Climate Change Anxiety: it has become increasingly recognised that the physical dangers posed by the climate crisis is also having an impact on mental health, and so this session will focus on ways in which the professions can harness hope through positive action on climate and their connections with nature. The panel comprises: David Black, the Managing Director of the Paragon Veterinary Group and a Director of veterinary environmental group Vet Sustain; Alex Mullarkey, the founder of the Sustainable Vet Nurse Community and environmental campaigner; and Sue Stuart-Smith, a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and author of The Well Gardened Mind, a Sunday Times bestseller.
  • Monday 29 November 2021 at 7pm – Men’s Mental Health: with research from the Mental Health Foundation showing that, in England, around 1 in 8 men has a common mental health problem, this discussion will focus on overcoming barriers that may exist to men recognising and seeking help for mental health conditions. The panel comprises: James Russell, Senior Vice-President of the British Veterinary Association, and a Vetlife board member; James Glass, a vet who has had his own experiences of a severe depressive disorder and is now studying for an MSc in the psychology and neuroscience of mental health; and Calum McIntyre, a final year student at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School and President of the Association of Veterinary Students.
  • Monday 13 December 2021 at 7pm – Working Through Winter: working through winter can be heard and bring a whole host of other challenges to the veterinary professions, so this chat will consider how the season affects veterinary mental health and what can be done to overcome the winter blues. The panel comprises: Mark Tabachnik, an equine vet based in Cheshire who also works as a professional development coach; Claire Gillvray, a medical psychotherapist and general practitioner whose passion is helping people gain mental strength through exercise, meditation, yoga and therapy; and Kate Stephen, an experienced qualitative social scientist and project manager.

Angharad Belcher, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “After our very successful first run of the Mind Matters Campfire Chats, we have a number of new session topics, which were requested by delegates earlier this year. As always, we will continue to host experts and those with lived experience at each Campfire Chat.”

As with the previous events, the Campfire Chats aren’t about being lectured at for an hour but are an opportunity to hear from those with lived experience, expertise and also for our audience to share their experiences, worries or life hacks. So please make sure to grab a mug of your favourite hot drink and join us.”

All the events are free, and members of the professions can sign up via the Mind Matters website at: www.vetmindmatters.org/events/ 

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Veterinary nursing students and recently qualified VNs invited to attend and take part in student mental wellbeing discussion forum

On 3 November 2021, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) will host a virtual Student Veterinary Nursing Wellbeing Discussion Forum, which student VNs, recently qualified RVNs and clinical coaches are encouraged to attend.

The event has been created following the results of a recent MMI survey of 650 newly qualified and student VNs, which found that bullying, incivility, stress and lack of mental health support were cited as issues that respondents had either witnessed or been affected by.

The event will take place on Zoom from 10:00am – 3:15pm and will offer the opportunity to discuss the key challenges highlighted in the survey responses and to explore the ways in which they can be addressed.

Key discussion topics will be opened by a short presentation offered by an experienced speaker. Attendants will then move into small discussion groups where they’ll be free to share their thoughts, experiences and ideas. The topics that will be discussed throughout the day are:

  • The Mind Matters Initiative and its roles
  • Incivility and Bullying – recognition and becoming an ally
  • Juggling Demands – balancing study, work, and personal life
  • Raising Awareness and Encouraging Pride in the Veterinary Nursing Profession
  • Disability and Chronic Illness – creating inclusive environments

Angharad Belcher, RCVS Director for Advancement of the Professions and Mind Matters Director, said: “Holding the Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum is one of the first steps in talking through the survey findings and working collaboratively with the veterinary nursing profession to discuss potential solutions and actions we can take.

“Having a range of voices and experiences present throughout the day will be key to generating constructive and forward-thinking discussions. If you have an experience that you want to share or ideas for how the profession could better support the wellbeing of veterinary nurses, then I would encourage you to register for and attend the forum.”

Jill Macdonald RVN, VN Futures Project Coordinator, said: “We have put together a varied and engaging programme for the Forum, which we are sure will provoke thoughtful discussions throughout the day. As part of the programme, we have Angharad Belcher and Lisa Quigley from the Mind Matters Initiative giving an overview of MMI and the results of their recent survey, Dr Claire Hodgson MRCVS, Alexandra Taylor RVN and Jane Davidson RVN leading the session on disability and chronic illness, Simon Flemming, a Trauma and Orthopaedic registrar, who will be heading a talk on incivility and bullying and myself and Dr Laura Woodward MRCVS will lead a session on raising awareness and encouraging pride in the veterinary nursing profession. Jane Davidson RVN will also be taking the lead on another talk, where she’ll be discussing balancing study, work, and personal life.

“After each talk, there will be time to reflect on the topics in the facilitator-supported discussion groups, and we are very much looking forward to having the opportunity for student and registered veterinary nurses to help shape the future of wellbeing issues in their profession.”

Anyone interested in attending the Student Veterinary Nursing Wellbeing Discussion Forum can register on the Eventbrite page or email info@mindmatters.org to find out more information about the event.

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MMI focuses on inequality and mental health for World Mental Health Day

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters mental health initiative is announcing a new training collaboration on how to champion equality ahead of this year’s World Mental Health Day (Sunday 10 October 2021).

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, and considers how societal inequalities can feed into mental ill-health, the unequal provision of and access to mental health services and treatment, and how people with mental health conditions can face discrimination and injustice.

As part of the Mind Matters Initiative’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, it is today announcing a new ‘Championing Equality’ training course, for which it is collaborating with representatives from the British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS), the British Veterinary Chronic Illness Society (BVCIS), Vetlife, and the British Veterinary LGBTQ+ Society.

The course will run throughout 2022 with each of the above groups contributing to the development and delivery of the course, including providing case studies on how inequality, stigma and discrimination can impact mental health.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, commented: “On behalf of Mind Matters I’d like to thank these fantastic veterinary organisations for collaborating with us. They have been doing such vital work in the profession, including on the intersections of factors such as ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity and disability with mental health, and we can’t talk about mental health unless we also have conversations about inequality.

“This course will help those attending understand the structural causes of inequality and the impact this has on individuals, workplaces and wider society; understand the relationship between mental health and inequality; develop an awareness of rights and responsibilities under the Equality Act; be able to recognize and respond to stigma and discrimination; and become a champion for equality and inclusion within the professions.

“More details about the courses will be published in due course but anyone who has an interest in finding out more and registering in advance for the courses can contact me on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk.”

This week Lisa, along with Vetlife Helpline Manager and veterinary mental health researcher Rosie Allister, will also each be publishing blog posts which examine the inextricable links between mental health and equality. Rosie writes about how societal inequalities impact mental health, while Lisa writes about how people with mental illness can experience inequality, stigma and discrimination, and how this can be addressed, for example, through workplace adjustments. These will be posted here on the Mind Matters website and shared on social media.

World Mental Health Day’s focus on inequality also comes ahead of the formal publication of the joint BVEDS and Royal Veterinary College’s Race Together research which looked at the mental health impact of experiences of discrimination and racism on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) veterinary professionals. The research will be presented by principal researchers Victoria Crossley (RVC) and Navaratnam Partheeban (BVEDS) at the Mind Matters Initiative’s Research Symposium.

You can find out more about the Research Symposium and register in our events section.

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Preliminary findings from wellbeing survey of veterinary nursing profession revealed

A new survey of student veterinary nurses, recently graduated veterinary nurses and clinical coaches has revealed the prevalence of workplace stressors and unhealthy workplace culture issues across the profession, including concerns over the impact of widespread bullying and incivility within the veterinary workplace.

Carried out by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI), the survey of over 650 people revealed that 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that bullying and incivility was a serious problem in the profession.

Furthermore, nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents had personally experienced a mental health concern and only half had received professional support for their concern. Over eight in 10 (82%) said that they thought veterinary nursing was a stressful career.

The survey was conducted to address the current research gap in the mental wellbeing of those working across the veterinary nursing profession. Participants were asked questions on a range of mental wellbeing areas including the level and quality of support available in education and work settings, stress, discrimination and bullying in educational and work settings and coping strategies for stress and mental ill-health.

Some of the additional key findings from the survey were:

  • One in five (20%) respondents have witnessed or experienced discrimination in an educational setting and around one-third of respondents had witnessed or experienced discrimination in a practice setting
  • Less than one in five (18%) respondents said they believed that veterinary nursing is a well-respected profession
  • 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 upcoming MMI Student Veterinary Nurse Wellbeing Discussion Forum, taking place on Wednesday 3 November. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss the key challenges highlighted in the survey and discuss how they think 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 2 October – Monday 4 October.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, commented: “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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Register now for international insight into veterinary mental health at Mind Matters Research Symposium

Mind Matters’ third Mental Health Research Symposium is now open for registrations and will see veterinary professionals from across the globe attend to present their latest research and insight into veterinary mental health and wellbeing.

The symposium will take place live online from 10am on Wednesday 24 November and will feature presentations from researchers based in the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as from the UK. You can register for this event via our MMI Events page.

Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the Mind Matters Taskforce, will introduce the event and will be followed by the Symposium’s plenary speaker, Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow and President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Professor O’Connor’s talk, ‘When It is Darkest: Understanding Suicide Risk’ will draw upon his extensive research and work on the psychological processes which precipitate suicidal behaviour and self-harm, an area of expertise that has seen him advise the Scottish Government, as well as other national and international organisations, on suicide prevention strategies.

Following Professor O’Connor’s speech there will be presentations on studies funded by the 2020 Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant in which £20,000 was awarded to two separate research teams looking into veterinary mental health and wellbeing.

The first presentation will be from Dr Victoria Crossley from the Royal Veterinary College and Navaratnam Partheeban, co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS), on their research into the mental health impact of racism and discrimination on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) veterinarians.

The second presentation is from Professor Neil Greenberg and Dr Victoria Williamson from King’s College London on their research into the impact of ‘moral injury’ on the mental health and wellbeing of veterinarians. Morally injurious events are defined as experiences which violate one’s moral or ethical code.

The course of the day will then split into different research streams with presentations on a wide variety of topics including: the impact of cyberbullying and harassment; the wellbeing of veterinary interns and residents; stigma and stress in veterinary nursing; mental health awareness training in the undergraduate veterinary curriculum; and the relationship between ‘patient safety culture’ and staff burnout.

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, says: “As with previous years the Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium promises to be a very informative and important day in terms of international researchers coming together to share their research, their conclusions, areas for further work and study, and best practice. Some of the topics we will be discussing, such as suicide, will be difficult, but research into issues affecting the international veterinary community is a vital first step to putting in place strategies and support mechanisms to help those in need. This is why research will be one of the key strategic priorities for the Mind Matters Initiative and our forthcoming actions in this area will be published later this year in our Mind Matters Initiative Strategic Plan.

“I would like to thank Dr Rosie Allister, a veterinary mental health researcher from the University of Edinburgh and manager of Vetlife Helpline, for putting together an excellent programme. As with previous years we are also offering free attendance of the symposium to those who have lived experience of mental ill-health, those who are currently not working, and veterinary and veterinary nursing students. If you have any queries about the event, please don’t hesitate to contact me on l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk to discuss further.”

For further details on the day and registration, please visit the MMI Events page. Please note that, for those not eligible for free attendance, the cost of registration is £10.

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New wellbing programme for the veterinary profession takes flight as MMI Kite App officially launches

Today (6 September), the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative is pleased to announce the launch of a new mental health and wellbeing platform, which has been created specifically for the veterinary community.

The platform, MMI Kite App, is one of the first programmes to provide mental health and wellbeing support, which is tailored specifically for the veterinary professions. The app has an extensive range of bitesize learning modules on different areas of mental wellbeing, which each incorporate interactive elements such as videos, journaling and reflection exercises to make learning as engaging as possible. From today, the app is now available for anyone working in the veterinary sector to download and start using to help improve their wellbeing.

The app has been created in partnership with The Kite Program, an organisation that specialises in microlearning programmes and who have previously launched mental health platforms for new mothers and the legal profession. The MMI Kite App incorporates microlearning techniques that make picking up a new skill possible with just five minutes of learning a day and have been shown to help learners retain and recall information.

These are examples of some of the learning modules that you will be able to use from today once you sign up to the App, and new programmes will be frequently added to the platform.

  • Calm Mind – Learn how to be mindful, manage anxiety and remain in the present
  • Hear Me – A module about how to listen to others effectively during times of stress
  • Resolve Conflict – How to resolve conflict in the workplace
  • Taking Care – Techniques for combatting compassion fatigue
  • Wellbeing Leader – Suggestions on how to lead the way with wellbeing in the workplace
  • Internal Compass – Discover how to explore and determine your values

When asked about the platform’s launch, Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, commented: “We’re so pleased to announce the launch of MMI Kite App and we can’t wait for people from the veterinary community to download and start using it. We know from our research that sadly vets and vet nurses are more likely than the general public to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. One of the ways we’re addressing these mental health concerns is through providing a range of wellbeing support resources for the veterinary community, and the MMI Kite App is a resource that we’re really proud to be offering to the profession for free.

“We’ve designed MMI Kite App to be as accessible and engaging as possible, with content that learners will find valuable. We also used feedback from the app testing stages to make sure we developed programmes that the professions told us they felt the app needed to have. We’re confident that anyone who uses the app will find something that will help them with an area of wellbeing that they need support with.”

You can register here for the app on the MMI Kite App project page. All you need to register is your name and email address to get started. If you have any questions at all about MMI Kite App you can contact Lisa Quigley, MMI Manager by emailing l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk

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Pre-registration launched for MMI’s new app-based veterinary wellbeing programme

All veterinary professionals are now able to pre-register for a new mental health and wellbeing app being produced by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) ahead of the platform’s launch early this autumn. MMI has collaborated with The Kite Program to develop a mental health and wellbeing programme, called MMI Kite App, that incorporates bespoke microlearning modules for the veterinary professions.

Microlearning is a type of (typically) online learning which delivers content in bite-size modules. This type of training usually combines a mixture of interactive activities, images and videos, which can be worked through in short chunks of time. Veterinary professionals often have busy workdays and put in long hours, which was taken into account when MMI Kite App was being developed. All the training modules on the app can easily be incorporated into someone’s day-to-day work and personal life, with many only taking five minutes to complete.

MMI Kite App is completely free to use and will have a range of learning modules (affectionately known as ‘Kites’) specifically for the UK veterinary professions. The app allows users to choose the learning modules they want to take (there are no mandatory modules) and work through them at a pace to suit them. The first ‘Kites’ available on MMI Kite App will include modules on breathing activities, mindfulness, time management and physical activity for mental health. The platform will be adding new modules over the weeks and months and the MMI team will use feedback from members to ensure that the content is what is needed.

Angharad Belcher, RCVS Director for Advancement of the Professions, commented: “Veterinary professionals undertake vital work for animal health and welfare, but the intensity and pressure of their work can take its toll on mental health and wellbeing. Sadly, research shows that compared to the general population, veterinary professionals are more likely to experience mental health distress, including depression and anxiety.

“We recognise how hard it can be for veterinary professionals to fit wellbeing activities into their busy workdays and understand that everyone’s mental health needs are different. By collaborating with The Kite Program, we wanted to create a wellbeing platform that was accessible, flexible and had a range of activities to meet a variety of mental health and wellbeing needs. This app will be another useful tool for the professions, and we are pleased to be able to offer it free of charge.

“We are really looking forward to hearing feedback from the professions about the platform and creating more modules based on their wants and needs.”

Hannah Hardy-Jones, The Kite Program CEO and Founder, said: “We use a Kite as an effective analogy for talking about wellbeing. At the Kite Program, we believe this is a much easier analogy to explain and normalise wellbeing and mental health, which can often be very clinical and unrelatable. As people, we go between having soaring kites right through to having a kite that is broken and on the ground.  It takes practice, patience and skills to be able to fly your kite in any condition. Our app and programs are designed to help people learn to “fly” confidently. As you move through each Kite module within the app, you build skills in an accessible and practical way.”

All activity undertaken on the app is highly secure, as users can’t input any personal information into the MMI Kite App and the only data that MMI will hold is a record of active users. There is an extra level of security whereby if the app is not used for four consecutive weeks, then the user ID is marked as inactive, and the user will need to reactivate their account.

Anyone who would like to pre-register for MMI Kite App can do so by visiting the MMI App Project page and following the registration button link. Anyone who is attending BEVA Congress 2021 will be able to visit the RCVS conference stand to see a demo of MMI Kite App and ask questions about the platform. Once MMI Kite App is launched early registrants will receive email instructions from MMI on how to access and start their Kite journey.