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MMI Campfire Chats Return for Fourth Series of Topical Discussions 

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative is inviting veterinary professionals to join their fourth series of Campfire Chats commencing this autumn.

The Campfire Chats, which were first set up in January 2021, provide veterinary professionals with the opportunity to come together to chat about important topics impacting their mental health and wellbeing.

Since their inception, the chats have continued to grow in popularity and have covered a wide range of topics, from stress and loneliness to creativity and climate change anxiety.

The upcoming sessions are as follows:

  • Tuesday 11 October 2022 7pm to 8pm: Social Media and Mental Health – this discussion will delve into the mental health benefits and challenges of social media, and how to manage these. Panel guests for this session include Lou Northway RVN (@louthevetnurse), Dr Bolu Eso MRCVS, and Dr Jeffrey Lambert (University of Bath).
  • Wednesday 9 November 7pm to 8pm: Letting Go of Perfect this chat will explore the topic of perfectionism – how to recognise it, how to learn navigate it, and the ways in which it can impact your mental wellbeing. Panellists include Dr Fabian Rivers MRCVS (Dready Vet), Dr Elisa Lewis (London South Bank University), and Professor Andrew Hill (York St John University).
  • Wednesday 30 November 7pm to 8pm: Maintaining Balance – this discussion will explore many faces of maintaining balance, the ways in which we can try to implement it into busy schedules, and why finding an individual sense of balance is so important. Panellists include Laura Kidd MRCVS (Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary studies, Edinburgh), and Lucy Grieve MRCVS (British Equine Veterinary Association).

An additional campfire chat is also due to be run in conjunction with the RCVS Diversity and Inclusion Group, discussing the recently published RCVS/VSC (Veterinary Schools Council) BAME Student Support Working Group report. Details for this are yet to be confirmed.

Angharad Belcher, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative, commented: “We are delighted to be bringing back our Campfire Chats for a fourth series. It’s hugely important that we are able to provide the professions with a space to talk openly and honestly about the key issues impacting their mental health and wellbeing in a secure, yet relaxed, environment. We all lead such hectic lives and taking the time to come together and either discuss, or simply listen to, each other’s experiences can be really beneficial.”

“The sessions are open to the whole veterinary team and are free to attend. We like to keep the sessions as relaxed as possible, so whilst the sessions aren’t recorded, we do provide a roundup of all the key information discussed after each session. These round ups can be accessed via the Campfire Chats resource page on the MMI website or will be sent directly to you after the session.”

All members of the veterinary profession can sign up to attend the Campfire Chats via the MMI Events page.

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

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MMI and VN Futures join forces on latest civility training collaboration

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has announced a new civility training collaboration with the RCVS VN Futures project to help tackle incivility in the workplace. The training will be delivered by VetLed.

Having worked with VetLed previously in the year to deliver six successful online civility training sessions, MMI and VN Futures are collaborating to extend the reach of these sessions by providing both online and in person training in a range of locations across the UK.

The continued delivery of Civility Training sessions comes as part of MMI’s ongoing commitment to promoting the importance of civility and psychological safety in the workplace. A joint survey into the mental health and wellbeing of student and newly qualified veterinary nurses, run by MMI and VN Futures back in August 2021, revealed that 96% of respondents believed that incivility and bullying were serious problems in the profession.

The survey was then proceeded by a Student Veterinary Nursing Discussion Forum, again run by MMI and VN Futures, to give student and newly qualified veterinary nurses, clinical coaches, and educators an opportunity to discuss the key challenges highlighted in the survey. Findings from the forum, published in the Student Veterinary Nursing Discussion Forum Report, show that ‘delegates felt that an overall improvement in workplace culture and professional respect was needed – including fostering better manners in the ways colleagues communicated to each other.’

Angharad Belcher, RCVS Director of the Advancement of the Professions and the Mind Matters Initiative, said: “We’re delighted to be collaborating with VN Futures to continue the delivery of these hugely important civility training sessions. Workplace culture has an enormous impact on mental health and it is vital that all members of the practice team are respected, listened to, and feel able to speak out.

“Our previous civility training sessions proved to be hugely popular and received excellent feedback, so we’re really excited to be able to bring them to a wider audience. I would like to thank VetLed and VN Futures for their ongoing dedication and support.”

Jill Macdonald RVN, VN Futures Lead, said: “It’s really exciting to be working with MMI and VetLed on this latest series of Civility training. Having been involved with both the survey and the forum last year, we, like MMI, are fiercely committed to creating psychologically safe workplaces for all. Mental health and workplace culture are inextricably linked, so hopefully running these sessions throughout the UK will have a long lasting ripple effect in improving practice culture up and down the country.”

There will be a total of twelve in person and online sessions running between October 2022 and April 2023 which will be open to the entire veterinary team. The civility training sessions are being subsidised by MMI with in person training costing £50 per person per session, and online training costing £20 per person per session.

Sessions currently available to book are as follows:

Online – 9am – 1pm

In-person – 9am – 4pm

For more information and to book, please visit the MMI training page.

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MMI sponsors VetLed’s latest Interactive Veterinary Nurse Think Tank series

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) is sponsoring the latest series of Veterinary Nurse Think Tanks, run by VetLed, a leading provider of ‘human factors’ skills training for veterinary professionals, supported by the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA).

The Veterinary Nurse Think Tank series is running as part of an ongoing collaboration between MMI and VetLed, aiming to tackle incivility in the workplace and encourage working environments which make wellbeing a priority.

So far, the collaboration has included the running of six fully-funded civility training sessions, a full day of free psychological safety workshops as part of VetLed’s Safe to Speak Up campaign, and the first of four Veterinary Nurse Think Tanks.

VetLed first established the Veterinary Nurse Think Tanks in 2021, to provide a safe and dynamic space for veterinary nurses to explore veterinary ‘human factors’ – an established discipline which utilises scientific knowledge about the human body, mind and behaviour to better understand human fundamental capabilities and limitations. Human Factors such as stress, fatigue, and communication barriers can have a huge impact on working culture and, when misunderstood, can stunt positive progress.

According to a 2021 Mind Matters Initiative survey of student veterinary nurses, recently graduated veterinary nurses and clinical coaches, 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that bullying and incivility was a serious problem in the profession. A recent VetLed poll of veterinary teams also revealed similar findings, with 97% of those polled having been on the receiving end of incivility in practice.

Based on the findings of the surveys, it was decided that the Think Tank events should focus on four key areas. The first think tank was titled ‘Identity and values’, and the remaining sessions will be focussed on the following:

  • Everyday leadership – Thursday 21 July 2022
  • Innovation and problem solving – Thursday 20 October 2022
  • When things go wrong: The importance of a just culture – Thursday 19 January 2023

Mind Matters Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “It’s fantastic to be working with VetLed and the BVNA to run these think tanks. Maintaining a positive working culture is essential both for the wellbeing of the practice team, but also for the wellbeing of the animals in their care.”

“Veterinary nurses carry out vital work and are an essential part of the practice team. It’s therefore of utmost importance that they feel empowered and safe to have their voices heard, and supported to drive sustainable, positive change.”

Helen Silver-MacMahon, Research and Development Director at VetLed, said “VetLed is delighted to be collaborating with the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative, supported by the BVNA, to ensure that every nurse has free access to CPD which supports their wellbeing and helps cultivate positive practice cultures.”

“The next Think Tank will focus on everyday leadership, where we will be exploring some of the potential challenges facing aspiring and current veterinary nurse leaders, and the ways in which these challenges can be approached. The session is interactive, so we actively encourage people to share their experiences, to allow us all to learn from and support each other.” The Veterinary Nurse Think Tanks are open to all veterinary nurses, including students. Each session lasts 90 minutes, commencing at 7.30pm. Places are available to book via the MMI Civility Hub.

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MMI awards funding to research project using online compassionate imagery intervention to improve psychological wellbeing of veterinarians

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has awarded £20,000 to a research project investigating the effectiveness of online compassionate imagery intervention in improving the psychological wellbeing of veterinarians.

The funding comes from the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, which was founded in 2019 in memory of RCVS Council member Sarah Brown, who passed away in 2017. The grant is awarded on a yearly basis, to fund research into the mental health and wellbeing of those working within the veterinary professions.

Past projects have funded vital research into a number of areas, including the mental health impacts of racism, moral injury, farm veterinarian mental health, and an investigation into workplace stressors for autistic veterinarians.

This year’s grant has been awarded to a research team at the University of Surrey, led by Dr Katherine Wakelin, Clinical Psychologist. In clinical practice, the high number of moral challenges faced by veterinary professionals is thought to contribute to poor mental health. In addition to this, due to the rigorous academic requirements needed to enter the profession, perfectionistic traits and self-criticism are common amongst veterinarians and are associated with a range of self-injurious behaviours and psychopathology. Furthermore, perfectionism is seen to enhance veterinarians’ vulnerability to moral distress in relation to moral challenges.

The study will be investigating the effectives of an online Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) intervention for veterinarian self-criticism and perfectionism. CFT has been developed to target individuals with high levels of self-criticism, who tend to benefit less from traditional cognitive therapies. The intervention was previously found to be acceptable, feasible and show preliminary indications of effectiveness in Wakelin’s (2021) feasibility study sampling 128 veterinarians. Therefore, the funding will be used to build on previous research and run a randomised control trial (RCT) study to establish the effectiveness of this type of intervention compared to a control.

Participants for the RCT will be recruited through The University of Surrey Veterinary Department and via social media. Any student, new graduate or qualified veterinarian will be able to take part, providing they haven’t already participated in the previous feasibility study and are not currently receiving a cognitive or CFT intervention.

On learning that her team had won the award, Dr Katherine Wakelin said “It’s fantastic news to have been awarded the grant. Having the opportunity to grow and build on my previous research is very exciting as my 2021 feasibility study showed very promising results! Now we have an opportunity to test the intervention further using more robust methodology and continue to investigate how the mental wellbeing of veterinarians can be supported.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said “We’re delighted to be awarding this year’s grant to the research team at The University of Surrey. We were impressed by their thorough application and the careful consideration that went into tailoring the research project to veterinary professionals. Perfectionism and self-critique are commonly present amongst veterinarians, and it is important to take these specificities into account when developing effective modes of support.

“We look forward to hearing the outcomes of the research and how we as a profession can use this knowledge to create more targeted mental health support for those working within the professions.”

Dr Katherine Wakelin will be awarded the grant at the RCVS Royal College Day on 8 July.

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MMI to offer free mental health training for student vets and vet nurses

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has announced a new programme of fully-funded Mental Health First Aid training, which will be delivered in partnership with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England.

One of MMI’s key areas of focus is the mental health and wellbeing of students, and the new training programme follows on from previous student mental health work, which includes surveys into the mental health and wellbeing of student VNs and a wellbeing discussions forum; a day-long event of research presentations and talks about a range of areas of student VN mental health.

Participants taking part in the training will need to attend one day of online training and one day of face-to-face training, with all sessions fully funded by MMI. Everyone taking part in the training will learn how to spot the signs that mean someone could be struggling with their mental health, how to support someone who is dealing with a mental health issue and how to embed a culture of mental wellbeing across their vet school and future workplace. Everyone who completes the training will receive a mental health qualification and a certificate to confirm they have completed the course.

Taking place throughout August, the training sessions are being held in cities across the UK to make the in-person training days as accessible as possible. The upcoming training dates and locations are:

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Initiative Manager, said: “Students are key to ensuring the veterinary professions continue to have passionate and dedicated vets and vet nurses joining the workforce. It’s vital that we help students to look after their own mental health and teach them how to look out for the wellbeing of their fellow students and future colleagues, and we’re pleased to be expanding our current Mental Health First Aid training programme to students.

“We hope that by providing mental health training for students, and equipping them with wellbeing skills before they start work, we will encourage the next generation of veterinary professionals to champion mental wellbeing in the workplaces, which will help to encourage vet teams that are increasingly supportive and welcoming.”    

Alison Speakman, BSAVA President, said: “BSAVA are delighted to be able to support the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative mental health first aid training courses for students. We are looking forward to holding a course at our Woodrow House headquarters to equip students with the skills to become valuable Mental Health First Aiders within their peer groups and future workplaces.”

Anyone wishing to attend the training can book their place on our training page.

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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.

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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

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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.