The key to nursing advancement

Jennifer Hamlin
Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Veterinary nurses are professionals. We are formally trained practitioners that are prevalent in just about every area of the industry. We carry a lot of responsibility and are responsible for our own clinical currency and continuing education. We have the capacity to lead, educate, and to give back to our field. We are registered, and accountable for our actions.

On a global scale, veterinary nursing is bursting at the seams to advance professionalism. As a community, we are discussing advanced specialities, post graduate qualifications, nurse practitioners, and research within our own field. We are more aware than ever before that nursing is a unique and essential skillset in the veterinary team. What is holding us back? Where is the career progression?

The history of advancing professionalism in human nursing gives us some insight into our own journey as there are remarkable parallels. There is extensive evidence in human nursing demonstrating the value of nursing professionalism, and how it benefits patients, the profession, and the industry itself. Professionalism helps the profession establish its own scientific body of knowledge. It supports clinical governance, and evidence-based practice, and it improves patient outcomes. Graduate and post graduate educational pathways contribute directly to advancing professionalism. They help create leaders, promote professional identity, increase public awareness, enhance value of the profession, improve the reputation of the profession, and support skills retention and recruitment. Advancing professionalism of veterinary nurses is an essential step toward a sustainable veterinary industry.

The evolution of veterinary nursing professionalism highlights the important dynamics and constructs of professional roles within a multidisciplinary healthcare framework. The value in human healthcare is well understood and there is substantial scientific evidence showing how multidisciplinary teams (MDT) improve patient outcomes, clinical efficiencies, and job satisfaction. Veterinarians currently are siloed, isolated, bearing the costs and legislative burden of responsibility, along with practice ownership, management, and consumer pressures. I cannot help but wonder if the consequence of this siloing could be contributing to the mental health crisis, and global skills shortage. Embracing a patient-centred framework will help bridge the skills gap between veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and animal healthcare assistants but advancing professionalism for veterinary nurses requires room at the top to move upward, and support from the bottom. The cultural shift to achieve this needs to be driven by the entire industry.

Advancement of our profession requires evolution of a culture that supports MDT. It requires the industry to lead itself and the only way this will happen is by embracing a shared vision of what the future can look like. We as a profession must value and support utilisation of healthcare assistants to improve economics of remunerating advanced VN practitioners. We must embrace development of our leadership capacity and highlight the benefits of professional advancement. We must normalise discussions about the roles and value of post graduate level VNs, and the options for career advancement. We must refine and communicate our shared industry vision. A team, working together, with diverse skillsets, supporting each other, with patient safety at the core. Each role is respected, encouraged, and empowered. Workflow is efficient and profitable.

Are we ready to claim our place among professionals? Yes. It is about time.

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