RCVS event first step for development of neurodivergent student support guidelines  - Veterinary Practice
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RCVS event first step for development of neurodivergent student support guidelines 

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) logo

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) held a hybrid event at The Royal College of Surgeons, London, to help inform their work on creating guidelines to support neurodivergent students on veterinary and veterinary nursing placements.  

Delegates comprised neurodivergent veterinary and veterinary nursing students, key stakeholders in veterinary education, including lecturers, disability liaison officers, placement officers and student welfare support staff, as well as extra-mural study (EMS), intramural rotation (IMR) and student veterinary nursing (SVN) placement providers. There were 100 delegates present, with attendees having the option to attend either in-person or online (47 joined online and 53 in-person). 

The event was organised through a collaboration between the RCVS Veterinary Nursing, Advancement of the Professions and Education teams and was built upon research funded by the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative in 2019 on workplace stressors faced by autistic veterinary professionals in practice and further research conducted by Dr Kirstie Pickles and Professor Anna Hollis. The event brought together work spanning the RCVS Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, the Mind Matters Initiative Strategy, as well as the overall RCVS Strategic Plan. 

The day featured a mix of talks and group discussions with speakers Dr Kirstie Pickles, veterinary surgeon, neurodiversity and mental health advocate, Professor Anna Hollis, director of Equine Services at the University of Cambridge, and Angharad Belcher, RCVS director for the Advancement of the Professions, heading up the event. It began with an overview of the day from Kirstie, Anna, and Angharad before delegates were split off into discussion groups, where they were asked to discuss a range of questions based on three key themes: 

  • How do we set up placements to be successful? 
  • How can we support students with frequent changes of rotation placements? 
  • What are the types of adjustments that could be put in place? 

The day ended with a brief roundup of the discussions, which was facilitated by Kirstie and Anna, and delegates were given the opportunity to ask any outstanding questions.  

RCVS director for the Advancement of the Professions, Angharad Belcher, said: “This event represented a crucial step forward in our collective efforts to ensure that neurodivergent students receive the support they need to excel in their studies and beyond.  

“For many, the workplace can be a challenging environment to join, let alone when considering neurodivergent needs. Our hope is that laying out clear guidance will empower students to make the most of their time on placement but also have a ripple effect within workplaces and organisations to consider their approach and focus on the benefits that each individual can bring, in turn impacting recruitment and retention within the workforce.  

“We had a fantastically positive and solution-focused day, and I would like to thank everyone who came and shared their thoughts and ideas with us. The valuable insights gained through the event have given us tangible outputs and will help us and various members of veterinary faculties across the UK to develop guidelines for good practice in supporting the well-being and academic success of neurodivergent students in veterinary and veterinary nursing education. 

“We are committed to creating inclusive learning environments where every student can thrive, and we look forward to seeing how these guidelines will help to drive the professions forward.” 

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