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Mind Matters awards funding to project exploring SVN mental health education

14 July 2023

The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) has awarded £20,000 to a research project taking a deep dive into whether there is adequate mental health education in the student veterinary nursing curriculum.

The funding comes from the MMI Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant which was founded in 2019 in memory of RCVS Council Member Sarah Brown, who passed away in 2017. The grant has since been awarded on a yearly basis to fund research into the mental health and wellbeing of those working within the veterinary professions.

Past projects have funded research into a number of areas, including: the mental health impacts of racism; moral injury; farm veterinarian mental health; an investigation into workplace stressors for autistic veterinarians; and the effectiveness of an online compassionate imagery intervention.

Faye Didymus and Jackie HargreavesThis year’s grant has been awarded to Dr Faye Didymus (pictured top) and Dr Jackie Hargreaves (pictured bottom) from Leeds Beckett University, who aim to address potential lack of understanding surrounding the importance of mental health education in the learning paths of student veterinary nurses. This will be done through a scoping review of mental health education during student veterinary nursing curricula.

The review will be supplemented by interviews with tutors, veterinary nurse students and qualified veterinary nurses to understand their experiences of and levels of exposure to mental health education. It is hoped this research will culminate in a set of evidence-based recommendations for how mental health education for student veterinary nurses could be enhanced.

On being told their proposal had been awarded the grant, Dr Faye Didymus said: “Being awarded the Sarah Brown Research Grant offers a fantastic opportunity for us and for the future of veterinary nursing. We hope that our research will have a real impact on the mental health of those working in the veterinary nursing profession.

“Maintaining good mental health is vital for job satisfaction, retention, and performance, and integrating mental health education into veterinary nursing courses is one way that veterinary nurse mental health can be supported, as it allows people to develop essential skills that will benefit their lives beyond education.”

“However, little is known about what mental health education is provided across veterinary nursing diplomas and degrees or if there is a consistent approach. Throughout the research, we aim to build a clearer picture of the current provision, so we can create evidence-based recommendations for the optimisation of veterinary nursing education.”

Mind Matters Initiative Manager, Lisa Quigley, said: “This year marks the final year of the Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grants, and I would like to thank Sarah’s family for their blessing to run the grant and for their ongoing support. We have funded six projects over the past five years, which we hope will help Sarah’s legacy and passion for improving mental health and wellbeing within the professions live on.

“I would also like to thank our panel of judges for their support. We have chosen a very deserving project and I look forward to seeing the outcome of their research and the impact it will have on the professions in the years to come.

“Much of the research into veterinary mental health has so far been centred on veterinary surgeons so we were keen to fund a veterinary nurse focussed project to help close that knowledge gap. The veterinary field encompasses the entire veterinary team, and we cannot afford to overlook a group that makes up much of the working veterinary population and who are vital for the functioning of the sector. It is essential that we support our veterinary nurses throughout their careers and provide them with the knowledge and tools to look after their own mental wellbeing from the outset.

“Research plays a major role in this, and we are delighted to be funding a fully nurse-based project.”

Dr Faye Didymus and Dr Jackie Hargreaves will be awarded the Sarah Brown Grant at the Mind Matters Mental Health Research Symposium at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on Tuesday 10 October. Tickets and more information about the symposium are available on the dedicated Mind Matters Symposium page.

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