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Royal College Day 2023: Address from incoming VN Council Chair, Belinda Andrews-Jones RVN

Thank you so much Matthew for everything – for helping to steer VN Council and the wider profession through the Covid crisis; for engaging with our veterinary nurse students and new graduates; for working on a comprehensive and much-appreciated definition of veterinary nursing; and, for leading us through our Diamond Jubilee celebrations, including a wonderful celebratory event at the Oxford Museum of Natural History.

I am so grateful to take over this role from you as you have done incredible work as VN Council Chair and, along with those who came before you, you have built the foundation for changes in the future.

Matthew, you have set a high bar for me to follow, and I hope I can do justice to the role.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be with you all this afternoon. It is wonderful to be surrounded by so many inspirational people, all dedicated to animal health and welfare.

I began my veterinary career early at the age of 15 when I started work in my local practice. Luckily, I did not take the advice from my school, who refused to let me have one of the veterinary practice placements for work experience, stating I would be the least likely out of all who applied to become a veterinary nurse. My determination to become part of the profession started then.

My career so far has been amazing. I am paid to do a job I love, in whatever form that has been. My career path has been convoluted with many twists and turns in terms of qualifications and speciality areas, and all entwined with my personal life to keep my passion for learning and professional development fed.

I have always believed the VN profession could be expanded in terms of its roles and responsibilities, and my thinking has always been ‘if you want something doing, get involved’. So, this is why I put myself forward as an elected member for RCVS VN Council and why I am clear on what motivates me to now take on this role as VN Council chair and what I want to achieve during my time in this office.

The biggest issue in the veterinary professions currently is workforce shortages. I see progression of the veterinary nurse role as a way to solve many of the problems with our profession. Feedback coming from the professions is time and time again that RVNs want to be able to do more.

I believe that if we expanded the vet nurse role we will aid retention, recruitment and reward of both veterinary nurses and surgeons. I have always thought if a human nurse can undertake certain activities in their field, why can’t we do the equivalent in the veterinary sector, with the correct training and qualifications of course. 

For us nurses, the sky is the limit for the future, but this will only happen if we work together for change. The Dalai Lama once said, ‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.’

Each and every one of us in the veterinary professions, needs to participate to make change in our chosen vocations. Don’t just think about what currently faces us, but think to the future of what if could look like. You may well think your impact is small, but small things can grow and make a large impact, when lots of people are involved.

For instance, if a survey comes out from organisations like the RCVS or Defra or the VMD or BVNA, make sure to answer or give feedback. As a profession we often have low participation in activities that actually help give us a voice, such as surveys or elections to VN Council. We will only gain change if we have a consensus in our professions that this change is needed, so we need your help in being heard.

Thank you all.

July 2023