Universities should prioritise well-being support for student veterinary nurses (SVNs), foster a culture of openness and empower SVNs to share their concerns and receive support to help them maintain the motivation required for a long-term clinical career.
This is the conclusion of a research project carried out by a Hartpury University academic, presented to delegates at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) Symposium in Manchester on Tuesday 10 October 2023.
The findings reinforce Hartpury’s existing approach to embed the well-being of veterinary professionals throughout the veterinary nursing department curriculum, not only raising awareness but also signposting to the various Hartpury support services.
Through appropriate well-being support, SVNs can remain on track for their future professional career and feel better prepared to take on the challenges of the role.
Suzannah Harniman, a senior lecturer and programme manager for Hartpury University’s BSc (Hons) veterinary nursing and BSc equine veterinary nursing degrees, presented her project titled “Final year student veterinary nurse’s future career plans: values, beliefs and anxieties” on World Mental Health Day and during the same week as Veterinary Nurse Day (13 October 2023).
The research aimed to investigate the motivators behind final-year student veterinary nurses’ career plans with a view to enhance the level of student support that could be offered in future.
Using a qualitative approach to the research on the importance of well-being support for SVNs, Suzannah used semi-structured interviews with final-year student participants.
It’s clear from the findings that participants are looking forward to their future careers in clinical practice. They place a high value on promoting animal welfare and hold a belief that a veterinary nursing career would enable them to align their personal and professional values.
However, the participants shared their concerns about the distressing nature of some aspects of their SVN role, euthanasia for example, and highlighted the importance of receiving support from their families, friends and university to help them to process challenging experiences.
Speaking about her findings, Suzannah said: “Through my research, I found that appropriate well-being support is essential for SVNs to successfully negotiate their training journeys.
“I’m pleased to say that this is something we prioritise here at Hartpury University with our own students.
“Ensuring the well-being of our SVNs and eventually registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) is supported in all aspects of their profession will help to ensure greater job satisfaction, a better work-life balance and ultimately help to retain talented nurses in the industry.”
This year’s MMI symposium brought together researchers, veterinary professionals and mental health experts from across the world to share their work with members of the profession.
This year’s event also included talks around autism in veterinary professionals, farm vet well-being and moral stress in charity vet hospitals.