Written by Hannah May Fitzsimmonds (pictured left)
Hannah May Fitzsimmonds is a third-year veterinary student and Senior Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) representative at the University of Bristol. She has an interest in both small and farm animals, with a goal of working in a mixed practice. Through her role on the AVS welfare committee she has become passionate about helping students feel supported and excited about their future careers. She spends her spare time at the gym or spoiling her whippet with long walks!
A new initiative, created by the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) Senior Vice-President Eleanor Robertson, was to develop the ‘CV of Failures’ talk; a project being piloted at Liverpool, Edinburgh and Bristol veterinary schools this year with the aim to roll it out to the remaining vet schools during the next academic year.
What is a ‘CV of Failures’ talk you ask? Read on to find out what happened at Bristol vet school…
On 23 of April around 40 Bristol vet students gathered in the student bar to take part in a question-led talk by speakers Catherine Oxtoby, from the Veterinary Defence Society, and Dr Mickey Tivers, a senior lecturer in small animal surgery. With the theme of reducing stigma around ‘failure’ in the veterinary profession, discussions were had around dealing with mistakes, the difference between negligence and misconduct and suggestions on how to cope with the emotional aftermath of making mistakes.
For example, Mickey did not get accepted into vet school initially, something that at the time was upsetting, frustrating and often deemed as a ‘failure’. However, he has gone on to become one of Bristol’s most inspiring clinicians, reassuring us that it is normal for things not to go to plan and with the right support we can still achieve great things.
Mixed in with the more serious conversation were anecdotal stories from our speakers, alongside other Bristol clinicians who joined us on the evening, about some of their less routine days as vets.
With 63% of vet students suffering from stress at university, any project that promotes discussion about wellbeing is welcomed. In this event Catherine and Mickey did a wonderful job of reassuring us that our academic, personal and professional lives won’t always go to plan but there is plenty of support out there, whether it be professional guidance from companies or chatting with friends.
Catherine said of the evening: “I think that the concept of a CV of Failures and providing a psychological safe space to ask questions about the things that really worry us as vets is an inspired idea. I was very happy to share my own experiences and it felt like a really open and honest, but very down to earth, discussion about some of the tougher aspects of vet practice.”
Event feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with attendees appreciating the informal, relaxed feel to the evening, which enabled lots of questions and discussion. AVS aims to run CV of Failures events at each university next term with each university rep tailoring the template to best suit their students. At Bristol we hope to include the local Young Vet Network at our next event, and involve more clinicians to broaden the experience shared.
Catherine beautifully summarises the event with a take home message of ‘You’re a vet – you’re going to get bitten, kicked and complained at once or twice – and you’re also going to make a mistake or two. It goes with the job but it doesn’t make you a bad vet; it just means you’re human.’
Mind Matters, who kindly provided lovely merchandise for the event, have many resources accessible to students and professionals alike, so do remember if you want to talk to someone either about professional or personal struggles look around the website for more information
 Bva.co.uk. (2016). BVA/AVS 2016 Survey Results. pg 12. [online] Available on the BVA website. [Accessed 4 May 2018]