Changes ahead with the Code of Conduct review

Jennifer Hamlin
Saturday, October 1, 2011

In this year of significant veterinary nursing milestones, we are further defining our professionalism by improving the regulations by which we practice. The review to the current Guide to Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses is complete and a new draft document for a UK Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses is now out for consultation. On page 424 of the last issue, Andrea Jeffery, RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council member who led the group tasked with developing the new Code, and a board member of The Veterinary Nurse, wrote an interesting commentary detailing how the Code has been up for review and what this may mean for our profession. Consultation closes on October 31st.

Changes ahead with the Code of Conduct review
Changes ahead with the Code of Conduct review


In this year of significant veterinary nursing milestones, we are further defining our professionalism by improving the regulations by which we practice. The review to the current Guide to Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses is complete and a new draft document for a UK Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses is now out for consultation. On page 424 of the last issue, Andrea Jeffery, RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council member who led the group tasked with developing the new Code, and a board member of The Veterinary Nurse, wrote an interesting commentary detailing how the Code has been up for review and what this may mean for our profession. Consultation closes on October 31st.

Most of us who have been in practice for some time will, at some point or another, have encountered a colleague whose competencies we questioned. For some of us, it may have been serious enough that we reported it, and for others we may have kept quiet, or left the job in search of a more professional environment. Now, with the new Code, our responsibility will be more than just guided by suggestions to report these colleagues, it will be directed by a code that we pledge to abide by at all times. In doing so, we will be bound by this set of directives and professionally accountable for reporting breaches in conduct in order to ensure the welfare of our patients, wellbeing of our clients, safety of the general public and the professionalism of the veterinary community at large.

There are some significant changes to the new draft Code. Most notable is the inclusion of declaration whereby all registered veterinary nurses agree to upholding basic ethical and professional standards. Animal welfare continues to play a prominent role in our guiding principles and will now be part of our pledge. Some other changes in the new Code include a much more detailed list of responsibilities relating to patients. Now, there is a clear set of guidelines around the provision of adequate and competent care, as well as requirements to provide sufficient, and presumably timely, pain relief. It also stipulates that veterinary nurses ensure clinical governance thereby implying consistent patient management, as well as effective policies, processes and clear responsibilities for all staff caring for patients. We also now have a set responsibility to ensure animal welfare to the extent that we are obligated to report those who are not demonstrating competency in patient care delivery.

Another key area of difference is in the re-organized list of responsibilities relating to clients, which not only covers indemnity insurance and effective communication skills but also clarifies our roles in respecting the client's needs as well as responding courteously to client complaints. This could arguably apply to all feedback from clients and is such an important consideration in providing effective care.

One other very distinct addition to the new Code is the list of responsibilities relating to veterinary nurses and the profession. This area covers some essential aspects relating to professional accountability including identifying and addressing physical or mental health, as well as taking steps to ensure that any suspected impaired performance of colleagues does not put animals, co-workers, clients or the public at risk. Ensuring continuing professional development and avoiding misrepresentation also feature prominently in the new Code.

The changing terminology from ‘Guide’ to ‘Code’ in the new draft implies that we are more willing than ever to take on professional accountability and this is a real symbol of growth for the veterinary nursing community. Even if you are not able to provide some input, reviewing the new Code is a good opportunity to take stock of our professional responsibilities and refocus our objectives to ensure a strong cohesive future for the profession. We hope you enjoy this issue of The Veterinary Nurse.

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