What can we expect from the virtual BSAVA Congress 2021? - Veterinary Practice
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What can we expect from the virtual BSAVA Congress 2021?

With its new virtual format, balance of clinical and interactive content, wide range of practical topics, light-hearted socials and sessions on well-being, BSAVA Congress 2021 is a compelling offering for every member of the practice

BSAVA Congress, one of the world’s largest events for the small animal veterinary sector, is being held online for the first time ever from 25 to 27 March 2021. Last year’s event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the BSAVA has pulled out all of the stops to make this live three-day event a “must go to” for high-quality CPD.

Accredited by both the RCVS and the Veterinary Council of Ireland, veterinary professionals attending the event will have access to 80+ live sessions and 100 on-demand webi­nars, all from the comfort of their own homes. Twenty-four half-day modules, each comprising three or four sessions interspersed with compelling addresses from three keynote speakers, will be taking place over the three days, with access to the platform and recordings available for 60 days after the event.

How will the virtual event work?

Four simultaneous live streams and more than 150 speakers will deliver 80+ live sessions in a format that blends clin­ical, practical and interactive content. Many have relevant presentations woven in to make them suitable for the whole practice team, from clinical directors to practice nurses and managers. These sessions are grouped into half-day modules according to topics, giving you a wide range of high-quality content on topics that you deal with day-to-day in practice.

As well as these, 100 pre-recorded webinars will also be available alongside the live programme, enabling delegates to dip in at their leisure.

The traditional lengthy notes and MCQs have been replaced with practical resources, such as printable client handouts or flowcharts, for delegates to take back to their clinics to share what they have learnt with their colleagues.

Lecture format

As part of the BSAVA’s Congress Diaries, BSAVA President Ian Ramsey wrote a blog post about the difficult task of ensuring that the virtual event’s programme is as interactive and engaging as the regular face-to-face event. He explained that the number of traditional-format, single-speaker webinars have been reduced to make way for a new type of two-speaker session:

“They will provide two shorter talks that aim to answer a single question or address a single issue,” he explained. “Then, the two speakers will be brought together in a live broadcast with a chairperson to discuss their presentations with input from the audience.” He added that “this is guar­anteed to deliver a unique opportunity for you to explore the multi-faceted disciplines of the small animal veterinary world, to see the clinical challenges from different points of view, and to join in”.

Integrated streams for the whole team

Content for veterinary surgeons, nurses and practice man­agers has been integrated into the same streams for the first time to reflect how the professions work closely together in practice, using complementary skills and knowledge. The decision to blend the modules follows the BVA’s vet-led “hub and spoke” model to support effective teamwork between vets and allied professionals.

“Bringing the nursing content in with veterinary content is another exciting change. It mirrors how we work in my practice with all the professionals contributing to the diag­nostics and treatment plans for patients,” explained Julian Hoad, chair of the BSAVA Delegate Experience Committee. “Gone are the days of the patriarchy. In are the days where we recognise and draw on the expertise of the whole team for the benefit of clients, their owners and for the teams that manage them.”

Practical CPD

An aspect of conferences sorely missed this past year has been the practical elements of such events – but the BSAVA Congress team has found a solution. Teaming up with Infiniti Medical and Orthomed, there are a new selection of practical CPD learning opportunities available, adjunct to the congress itself.

Delegates will have to book tickets for these informative, interactive video CPD sessions on aspects of orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery and a new non-invasive imaging technol­ogy, each taking place in April 2021. Included in the fees for these extra sessions, a full training set – consisting of items required for the practical component of the course – will be sent to delegates for use during the session. Further infor­mation about these sessions can be found online.


BSAVA Congress 2021 exterior. Powered by vFairs

Another staple of in-person conferences is the exhibition, and this has been brought to BSAVA Congress in its new format. Within the platform, delegates will have access to the virtual exhibition where you can visit booths and chat to reps either through an open text forum or individual voice/video calls for any specific enquiries. There will be an appointment booking facility so you can arrange any meetings in advance if preferred.

Also within the booth, exhibitors will include links, videos and documents about their latest products/services and offers. Documents can be added to your virtual delegate bag and downloaded when required. If exhibitors are running any competitions, these will be accessed through their booth – be sure to pay each one a visit to see what’s on offer.

“This year, delegates will be able to get product informa­tion in the form of videos, or text, whichever they prefer, and chat one-to-one with reps in just a few clicks,” explained Hannah Watts, member of the BSAVA Congress exhibition sub-group in conversation with Ian Ramsey as part of the Congress Diaries. “With the exception of the live chat, you will be able to access this information on the platform for eight weeks, so if there’s something you want to come back to when you’ve more time, or something you want to show a colleague, you’re able to do that. Likewise, if you’re wanting to speak with a rep, you can book an appointment – no awk­ward loitering at a stand waiting for someone to be free!

“We’ve some big names coming as well as some new ones. We’ve new product launches and many are planning to bring an element of ‘fun’ to their stand, with competitions and prizes. There’s some excellent CPD in the exhibitor stream too.”

BSAVA Congress 2021 lobby. Powered by vFairs

Keynote speakers

The first of three keynote speakers to be featured at BSAVA Congress 2021 is Jenny Campbell, British entrepreneur known predominantly for her role as a dragon on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. As someone who has continually juggled her career with family commitments, Jenny is aware that the veterinary profession is currently under more pressure than ever to achieve a healthy work–life balance.

The second keynote speaker to be announced is Ranj Singh, NHS doctor, television presenter, author and col­umnist. He will be sharing his insights on the mental health challenges when working within a caring profession within the constraints of COVID-19.

The third keynote speaker is yet to be announced at the time of publication.

Highlighted lectures

Four simultaneous live streams will be taking place on each day of the congress, with a total of 24 half-day modules, each comprising three or four sessions interspersed with three keynote lectures – a total of 80+ live sessions. With such an in-depth programme covering all aspects of the small animal veterinary profession – where to start?

To help delegates curate their own personal congress schedule, the team at BSAVA has highlighted their top tips for congress, but of course these highlights are just some of the informative lectures on offer and are by no means exhaustive.

For Delegate Experience Committee chair Julian Hoad, programme highlights include owner engagement in chronic pain management and the ethics of managing heart disease in pets: “I particularly want to attend these sessions because these emotive and emotional issues can only really be appre­ciated by interactive sessions,” he said.

Andy Green, who leads the Programme Committee, said: “My two favourite sessions for the general practitioner are ‘Interactive lower respiratory radiography’ and ‘The difficult dental extractions: tips and tricks’. Many vets still find it a challenge to interpret chest radiographs confidently and it’s going to be one of the most interactive sessions. The dentistry sessions are going to be very helpful because these are some of the most common procedures we do in first opinion practice.”

The past year has been fraught with constraints on every­day practice – with lockdowns and social distancing restric­tions altering the way practices operate. A recent survey of BSAVA members highlighted that the way that technology is being used may lead to long-term benefits. The results from this survey were taken into account when designing the BSAVA Congress programme, with congress topic “Lessons from lockdown: telemedicine is here to stay” taking place on Saturday 27 March. Congress will also be covering an update on sustainability issues through the module titled “Can the profession go green?”

There are talks that can serve as useful clinical refreshers for vets throughout the event. From multiple discussions about pain management plans for chronic pain in pets (Thursday), to tips and tricks for difficult dental surgical extractions in the dentistry module (Friday), there are plenty of lectures to spike your interest.

For those wanting more advanced content, the BSAVA team highlight a talk on the current thinking on feline tria­ditis (Thursday), an update on feline chronic gingivitis and stomatitis (Friday) and how to deal with abdominal surgical complications (Saturday).

There is of course content tailored to recent graduates as well, such as a lecture on common anaesthetic complications (Thursday), where to start with neuro diagnosis (Friday) and what to do when presented with acute abdomen (Saturday). The BSAVA team also recommends the lecture on improving your skills in cytology (Saturday).

If you want something in the middle, the BSAVA team also has suggestions for vets who have been qualified for four to eight years. Among others, they suggest a session on interactive lower respiratory radiography (Thursday), a discussion on why and how to do liver biopsies in practice (Thursday) and a lecture about dealing with non-healing corneal ulcers (Friday).

For nurses, there is a module on the Friday afternoon enti­tled “Nursing: the cornerstone of care” with various sessions for nurses specifically, but content which will be of interest to veterinary nurses is otherwise dispersed in the rest of the modules. “Are safety checklists your new best friend?” (Thursday) was highlighted by the BSAVA team as recom­mended for nurses, as well as a session on anaesthesia in BOAS patients (Friday) and a lecture about improving your practice’s skills in cytology (Saturday), which will be aimed at both vets and nurses.

Finally, key modules for practice managers and clinical directors include “Patient safety is not an option” (Thursday) and “The profession today: recruitment and retention” (Sat­urday). The first of the aforementioned modules will feature discussions around clinical audits, SEAs, M&Ms and safety checklists. The latter module will focus on creating a vet- and nurse-friendly practice, making your practice stand out and top tips for staff retention.


BSAVA Congress 2021 wouldn’t be complete without the always-popular social calendar, and this has been incorporated into the event’s programme, with a variety of fun and well-being sessions too, such as live music from Mark Walby, a virtual disco, yoga and medita­tion, a charity run, baking, magic and mindreading and a quiz with Kahoot!.

Tickets are available for supplementary events, such as a cocktail masterclass with Mix & Twist, a wine tasting with Tim Syrad, a whisky tasting with Isle of Raasay Distillery and “The Flavour Explorer Experience”, where delegates who purchase tickets will be sent a box including all of the necessities for the online event, be it cocktail ingredients, wine or whisky. The events will then be held online in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Competitions at congress

Keep your eyes peeled for icons and pick-up points as you immerse yourself in the BSAVA Congress.

With over £7,000 worth of prizes to be won, there are some very good reasons to take part in the scavenger hunt and compete for the top spots on the leader board.

Those that find all the treasure (icons) hidden through­out the virtual space by 8pm on Saturday 27 March will be entered into a prize draw to win the prizes. Search the chat rooms, explore the stands in the exhibition and scout the sessions for those valuable icons.

Delegates that take part in webinars, visit exhibition stands and otherwise participate in the congress will find that they accrue points, and these points mean more prizes. At the end of each day of the congress, the top ten point leaders will win prizes such as an iPad, a Fortnum and Mason hamper, Netflix for a year or a Kindle Oasis.

Further information about BSAVA Congress 2021, including the full programme and ticket information, can be found online.

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