Community is so important to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association that it is one of our strategic pillars. What does this mean? It means that BSAVA activities are measured against the objective of helping practitioners build and maintain their professional communities.
Why? Because it is community that builds careers, and is there to celebrate success and support us when we need it.
The importance of community for the profession
Community is part of the solution for retention within the profession – when you look at the reasons why people say they are leaving veterinary practice, many can, at least in part, be helped through an active community.
For example, a 2019 BVA survey cited stress as a key issue for the professions. Being able to talk and potentially work through problems with others is an important role of an extended professional community. They can help mitigate stress as these relationships can have a meaningful role in maintaining well-being too. The NHS talks about the importance of connecting with others, of learning and of giving to others, all of which can be achieved through veterinary communities.
Being able to talk and potentially work through problems with others is an important role of an extended professional community. They can help mitigate stress as these relationships can have a meaningful role in maintaining well-being too
The BSAVA community
Initially, the BSAVA was a group of interested and skilled enthusiasts who came together to share the limited knowledge of small animal veterinary care. While that has been professionalised since and our goal is more about filtering the wealth of information to create a pragmatic update, at our heart we’re still a community of like-minded practitioners all wanting to see, hear and talk about our shared passion.
The event has always been the place not just for CPD but where the BSAVA communities get together
We do that in many ways: through our manuals, the online library, our regions and of course, at congress. The event has always been the place not just for CPD but where the BSAVA communities get together. I use the plural because there are many different communities meeting at congress and you find that you belong to more of them as your career progresses.
My own community
Like many delegates, I started with a small community of peers and lecturers from my university. Over time that has grown, and it now includes past and present colleagues, practitioners I’ve undertaken CPD with, local BSAVA members, BSAVA volunteers and staff, industry suppliers and stakeholders. Other experienced vets and nurses will be able to add fellow lecturers and researchers, or affiliate associations of their specialisms to that list. I know my network has expanded, as each year it takes me longer to cross the exhibition floor.
Each connection is like a thread, and there are many threads holding the veterinary community together. It is, after all, a small profession. With each congress, I add strands to those threads and the threads make up the tapestry of my career so far (if I’ve not tortured the metaphor!).
So how do you develop a rich tapestry? For many in the corporate world, it’s through active networking. I’ll be honest, the idea of approaching an individual purely because they’d be a good “connection” to have makes me uncomfortable. Instead, my community has grown organically through volunteering. Admittedly, until recently I’d not noticed this by-product of my volunteering work. I got involved simply because I enjoy it.
Volunteering with BSAVA
Ultimately, I’ve volunteered because I find it fulfilling and fun. Inadvertently, I’ve developed a professional community made up of individuals with whom I’ve got deeper and more meaningful relationships
The BSAVA community is very generous and giving. We’ve got 350 volunteers who give their time for free to varying extents. This sense of collective endeavour is really powerful. You’re working not only within your profession, but for your profession and giving back through writing manuals, organising events, feeding into a policy committee, etc. It’s liberating – knowing you’re doing it for free, you don’t have the baggage that you may have at work. You’re doing it because you want to move the profession forward and it gives you a sense of pride, as well as an opportunity to work with some amazing people. Even now I will take a moment to step back and enjoy sitting round a table, as a general practitioner from Bedford, being listened to by the great and good of the professions.
Ultimately, I’ve volunteered because I find it fulfilling and fun. Inadvertently, I’ve developed a professional community made up of individuals with whom I’ve got deeper and more meaningful relationships. If I’d have tried to actively pursue relationships with these individuals, would I have been successful? Who knows. But I doubt they would have been genuine connections that I could rely on.
Building your own community at congress
So, my advice for anyone coming to congress this year is get involved; join in with the debate, and say “yes” to taking part. You never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn
One of the many benefits of the redesigned format of the programme at BSAVA Congress 2022 is the increased opportunities to engage with others. Through discussions, debates, Q&As and the interactive CPD sessions, there will be very good reasons to talk to professionals from across the sector.
So, my advice for anyone coming to congress this year is get involved; join in with the debate, and say “yes” to taking part. You never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn.
|BSAVA Congress 2022 is a hybrid event taking place from Thursday 24 March to Saturday 26 March online and at Manchester Central. To find out more visit the BSAVA Congress website|