Implementing change is an integral component of the professional activity of a veterinary nurse. However, the drivers for change in the industry are often accompanied by restraining forces, highlighting the importance of effective leadership and change management. A review of the literature has identified that effective leaders demonstrate particular behaviours and hold certain values, and a shared leadership approach is essential for the implementation of change to be successful. Many veterinary nurses already demonstrate successful leadership behaviours in their day-to-day work, and by following a model of change, could be better placed to successfully implement change in their clinical practice. Literature specific to veterinary nursing leadership and change management remains limited and highlights a requirement for further research and studies in to this area.
The topic of change management is pertinent as the veterinary nursing profession faces system-wide drivers for change. Section 1.7 of The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' (RCVS) Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses states that clinical governance must form part of the professional activity of a veterinary nurse, emphasising the continual requirement for change in practice (RCVS, 2018). Further drivers for change for veterinary nurses in clinical practice include the implementation of patient, client and business improvement strategies such as those associated with clinical governance and clinical audit. In clinical practice, veterinary nurses are ideally placed to support and implement change; however, it is pertinent for veterinary nurses to be aware of potential challenges when implementing change (Ballantyne, 2018). As Ballantyne (2018) warns, trying to implement change is often accompanied by restraining forces, which include adopting an unstructured approach to change, ineffective communication, employee behaviour and inappropriate leadership. Ballantyne (2018) and many others highlight the importance of harnessing effective leadership strategies and the application of a model for change for more successful implementation. This review of the literature aims to identify effective leadership behaviours, traits and attitudes and consider the efficacy of Kotter's (1996) model of change as a change implementation tool. There is a limited but growing body of literature associated with implementing change in veterinary practice; therefore, the disciplines of human medicine and medical education leadership and change management have been included.