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Follow the BVA good veterinary workplace voluntary code to help your team to thrive

30 Sep 2020 | Justine Shotton


BVA Junior Vice President Justine Shotton's team at Marwell Zoo embarked on a proactive journey to improve their veterinary workplace last year. Following the launch of the BVA good workplaces policy position, Justine shares her experience and offers some tips to help you on your good workplaces journey.

Follow the BVA good veterinary workplace voluntary code to help your team to thrive Image

This week, we launched the BVA good veterinary workplace policy position and voluntary code. Our hope is that through using these tools, all members of the veterinary team will feel heard, valued and empowered with a practical framework to work through. This can improve their practice culture, champion diversity, promote positive mental health, highlight the need for good work-life balance, inspire managers to best support their teams, encourage continual professional development, and celebrate success.

My personal experience of addressing workplace culture

Towards the end of last year, my team at Marwell Zoo embarked on a proactive journey to make our veterinary workplace the best it possibly could be. This has been a wonderful journey and learning experience for all of us, with us each becoming more  aware of our individual characters, how we interact with others in our team, and how we can communicate most effectively. We openly held forums to discuss issues that had been causing stress, including how we prioritise work and affect change, how we communicate between teams, how we can learn from mistakes and how best to cope with ethical dilemmas. Through identifying our current issues and areas needing development, we could then agree on actionable changes, and follow these up at regular intervals to make sure we were continually improving. 

One thing this highlighted for our team was that we tended to focus on what had not yet been accomplished, rather than taking the time to celebrate our many successes. So, we made one of our actions to highlight the need to foster more mutual encouragement and praise for the positive impacts our team were making. The busy nature and high workloads of our team meant this critical focus often got forgotten in the midst of the next emergency case or important meeting. Changing our team mindset and becoming more aware of this led us to include positive cases in our daily rounds, and gave opportunities for team members to take stock of their own accomplishments and receive well-deserved praise from other team members. This small change really helped to make our practice culture more positive, and as a manager, it’s been fantastic to see the improvement in our team’s mutual support and encouragement, job satisfaction and purpose.

We’re very lucky to have a supportive and progressive HR team. They have supported our journey and invested in non-clinical CPD, coaching and organisation-wide wellbeing initiatives. We found it was vital to engage all members of the team and allow every voice to be heard, so we could work on agreed actions to improve our culture for everyone. This process has had hugely positive impact on our team’s sense of camaraderie and our team members’ health and wellbeing.

What can you do to ensure your team thrives?

I know not all workplaces are lucky enough to receive the level of support we have, which is why the BVA Good veterinary workplace policy position and voluntary code are so important. They allow all team members to be able to identify areas they can improve on, and collaboratively come up with solutions to make the workplace better for all. They offer a framework to openly discuss issues, provide guidelines on what a good workplace should look like, and highlight various areas that workplaces should focus attention on. 

If you are a manager, set up a meeting with your team and work through the seven key areas, making sure everyone in the team is committed.  If you are a member of the team, take the code to your managers to discuss, or even set up these meetings yourselves. 

Just starting to talk about these themes can seem daunting, but if we as a profession start addressing these issues at their core, and in every workplace, then I am confident that we will improve the lives of members of the veterinary team, improve staff retention, client satisfaction and animal care, and become a profession that values positive human health and wellbeing as highly as it values animal health and welfare.


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