BVNA at 50

Posted on October 15, 2015 by Sean Wensley

BVNA logoThere was a buzz around last weekend’s British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) Congress, captured by the rolling twitter headlines:

“VN profession strides ahead”
“We’re not “just” veterinary nurses” Go
“Celebrating 50 years of @BVNAUK and looking ahead to a new association for students”
“Know that what you have to say is important” says new @BVNAUK president”
“Inspirational speech from BVNA’s new president”

It has certainly been a remarkable 50th anniversary year for the Association. In her last speech as President, Fiona Andrews summed up, "I can say with confidence that it's been an absolutely amazing year". It was a year when the introduction of a new RCVS Royal Charter meant that the whole of the veterinary nursing profession in the UK is now regulated, and when lobbying began in earnest to gain legal protection for the title “veterinary nurse”.

A prominence of evidence-based vet nursing

The Congress was preceded by the first VN Council meeting to be held outside London, hosted at the BVNA Congress venue in Telford. This gave an opportunity to hold a BVNA session on the Vet Futures project, attended by BVA Senior Vice President John Blackwell and RCVS President Bradley Viner. BVNA has been represented at previous meetings of the Vet Futures project – seeking to prepare for and shape the veterinary professions’ future – but this was an opportunity to focus specifically on the important roles veterinary nurses will play as part of that future.

The Congress had an excellent turnout, with attendance up 40 per cent compared to last year and the highest number of scientific posters, reflecting the growing prominence of evidence-based veterinary nursing. The value of the topics to practice standards and animal welfare was obvious, with topics including “The registered veterinary nurse’s perception and clinical use of pain scores in first opinion practice” (Fennell and Gregory) and (on World Obesity Day, 11 October) “UK pet owner knowledge and awareness of pet obesity and health risks” (Watkins and Lumbis).

Growing BVNA for a "louder voice"

Incoming President, Sam Morgan, continued in the confident, forward-looking vein, with a speech revealing how she knew she wanted to become BVNA President when she attended her first BVNA Congress 17 years ago. Her Presidential theme is “engagement”, with a plan to grow the BVNA membership for a “louder voice” and to develop a new British Association of Veterinary Nursing Students to give a representative voice to students.

In the Congress exhibition, RCVS Director of Communications, Lizzie Lockett, and her team were busy promoting the campaign to protect the title veterinary nurse, handing out lapel badges, promoting the campaign “ twibbon” and hashtag, and gathering signatures for the online petition. Two days later, senior Veterinary Nurse and Chair of the RCVS VN Council, Liz Cox, wrote a rallying Huffington Post blog post on why the campaign is so important. In it, she explains:

Veterinary nurse treating a dog"In fact, we are more akin to our counterparts in human medicine as the people who provide healthcare on the frontline day-in, day-out. Like them we care for the patients whose lives are so precious to their families. We look after them before and after surgery, we set up the theatre and equipment, we assist in surgery, we take x-rays, monitor anaesthetics and make up prescriptions. Add to that the cancer support, diabetes management, weight loss advice, arthritis care and bereavement support and then you get just a small snapshot of what we do!"

Let's get 100,000 signatures

This perfectly describes the veterinary nurses I have had the pleasure of working with over the years, and I am currently proud to be able to communicate BVA’s full support for the campaign when giving talks, with the personal comment that veterinary nurses are some of the most compassionate and dedicated people I have ever met. As fellow professionals their knowledge, skills and values help make the veterinary profession what it is, and I would urge everyone to keep promoting the online petition far and wide. If all members keep highlighting it to their clients and contacts, we would soon progress from the current 17,000 signatures to the 100,000 needed to trigger a Parliamentary debate.


Sean Wensley

Written by Sean Wensley

BVA President from September 2015 to September 2016

Sean is Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Communication and Education at PDSA, based in Northern Ireland. He is also an Honorary Lecturer in animal welfare at the University of Nottingham.