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Providing emotional support for those going through professional conduct proceedings

This article is written by one of the volunteers from the RCVS-funded Professional Conduct (ProfCon) Investigation Support Service, which provides emotional support to those going through our concerns investigation and disciplinary process. As a compassionate regulator, we partnered with Vet Support in setting up a free confidential listening and support service provided by a group of Vet Support volunteers awho have been trained to give emotional support to any veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse going through the process. 

Vet Support NI was formed in 2017 as a peer support service for the veterinary industry in Northern Ireland with the support of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative. Over the years we have developed our service to now cover Ireland and the UK.

We provide support for colleagues undergoing stressful situations in their professional or private lives, with the ability for one-to-one coaching and the opportunity to continue the support relationship for as long as necessary. We are not therapists or counsellors – we are coaches.

In 2021, our service was extended to include ‘Profcon Investigation Support’ to colleagues across the UK undergoing RCVS professional conduct investigations.

Vet Support has always had a strong focus on stress management and general mental well-being. We help our contacts to remain calm in the face of an acute stressful situation, but also teach techniques to maintain good mental health in the longer term. As such, we are ideally placed to assist in the Profcon process - from the initial shock of receiving the ‘dreaded letter’ through to the completion of what can be a long and detailed process.

Our interaction usually starts with an email to [email protected] requesting help. One of our volunteers will then arrange to chat with the contact via email, WhatsApp, FaceTime, phone, or even in-person if geography allows. We provide a listening ear but also suggest problem-solving techniques to de-escalate a crisis to a point where ‘the client’ can think clearly and find a way forward. It is worth emphasising that Vet Support doesn’t involve itself in how the complaint is handled. Organisations such as the VDS are specifically focused on that aspect.   

Following initial contact, a plan is made for follow-up and our volunteers support the caller’s emotional health through the process.

Often, you may just need a sympathetic listener upon whom to vent, or you may be feeling complete overwhelm and require ways to find your feet again and achieve the clarity of thought required to navigate the process.

Our volunteers are available confidentially and free of charge for as many sessions as you require, and include supporters drawn from across the industry - vet nurses, vets, practitioners, practice owners and government vets so there will always be someone at hand to empathise with your particular situation and guide you through to a resolution.

If you feel that our support would be of benefit to you, you can find out more about us and access the service via our website. We’re always ready to assist!

May 2023