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Good veterinary workplaces: One year on

20 Sep 2021 | Daniella Dos Santos


As we mark the one year anniversary of the launch of the BVA good veterinary workplaces policy position this week, BVA Senior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos reflects on how far the profession has come and how you can get involved in creating good workplaces for all.

Good veterinary workplaces: One year on Image

For years the profession has had this ‘leaky bucket’ problem: as quickly as we filled the ‘bucket’ with vets we lost them from the profession. There was a lot of anecdote and opinion as to why this was happening, but no evidence or solutions. In 2018 BVA’s work with the University of Exeter finally helped us begin to understand the ‘why’. The importance of vets’ daily experiences within the workplace was clear, with negative experiences being significant predictive factors in their choices to leave the profession. Feeling like you are not valued or don’t fit in, not having roles models to look up to, long hours and being discriminated against are all factors…finally we had the ‘why’.

So BVA set up working groups to look into all the evidence out there, including the Exeter research and evidence from outside the profession. Various groups came together or contributed written submissions, including the Association of Veterinary Students, the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons, the British Veterinary Nursing Association, British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support, the British Veterinary Ethnic and Diversity Society, British Veterinary LGBT+, the Young Vet Network, and many of the specialist divisions, and a year ago the Good workplaces policy, voluntary code and workbook were launched.

The position finally gave some solutions to the profession’s eternal problem, moving the conversation on from the ‘why’ to the ‘how’. It was very clear that there was no single solution, as can be seen from the various chapters, but also that this wasn’t about employers vs employees; it was about the role we all play in making the profession a more welcoming place, where everyone could feel valued. I said at the time we launched it, and I still maintain, that this is a golden opportunity for us to improve the profession together; now and for the future. But I am conscious that we launched the position in the middle of a global pandemic, far from ideal, but actually, despite the challenges the pandemic did show us we could do certain things as a profession, such as flexible working (there’s a chapter on that!). So now is a great time to consider your journey, along with your team’s journey, through the good workplaces policy. I know it seems like a huge piece of work, daunting even, but actually…you just need to start small and start somewhere.

As a team, whether siting together or as individuals, work through the workbook to figure out what you do well, and what the team doesn’t do as well. This is the point things feel like they are overwhelming; with all the information gathered, where do you start? Well, anywhere…choose one area and start there. The Good Workplace journey is a slow and steady one, and success isn’t completion, but the process of change. It may be the case that as a team you choose to start where there is the biggest need for improvement, or you may choose to start where the team has the greatest interest, it doesn’t really matter as long as you start somewhere.

So, you’ve decided where to start…then what? Take a look at the relevant chapter of the policy document. It is full of great explanations and evidence of what works, signposting to useful resources and brilliant case reports. All of this together will help you put a plan in motion to get started on that section working together as a team to improve the workplace. Over time you can move onto the other sections, or plan to review the ones you have addressed to see how things have improved.

I know how daunting it can seem, that there is so much to do, that even knowing where to start is terrifying, but the first step is the key one, the rest will follow. This is a real opportunity for us all to work together to make a long-term difference to the profession, making it better for ourselves and for those who will follow us in the future.


For information about how to get started on your Good veterinary workplaces journey take a look at our How to get started guide on our Good workplaces hub. 


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