One of the UK’s leading veterinary nursing professionals has spoken of her pride at helping to improve career pathways and representation of RVNs within the industry, along with spearheading a unique new support structure.

Dr Andrea Jeffery, our Chief Nursing Officer has recently acquired the Specialist Division of Pets at Home, has added to her long list of achievements by completing a PhD which investigates the factors that influence retention within the veterinary nursing profession.

The motivation behind this was driven by an experience around 12 years ago, when a UK Vet School advertised for a professorial role (Chair) in veterinary nursing.

At that time, there were not any veterinary nurses who met that criteria, therefore a veterinary surgeon was appointed as the first Professor of Veterinary Nursing.

Andrea, the only person in the UK to sit at executive board level in a nursing capacity, said: “It’s not to say the individual who was appointed has not done an amazing job but to have the only chair of veterinary nursing in the country held by a veterinary surgeon was a real disappointment.

“We now have a number of nurses across the country who have undertaken Masters and PhDs, which means when this type of post becomes available moving forward veterinary nurses should meet the criteria to apply.

“A human nursing theorist called Hildegard Peplau once said ‘those who teach a profession, own the profession’ and that’s such an important point.

“If you want nursing to be a profession in its own right, sometimes you have to challenge the status quo.”

Indeed, that is what Andrea has been doing for much of her career. Inspired by her research, and the resulting data, she has been the driving force behind a bespoke nursing strategy and a recently-launched central support veterinary nursing team (CSVNT) at Linnaeus, showcasing the group’s dedication to the profession.

This innovative CSVNT has been created to help the Linnaeus nursing population – which makes up almost half of its 4,000 Associates – develop a career framework which facilitates the development of RVNs throughout their nursing journeys.

At the heart of this strategy lie three ‘pillars’ which centre around student experience and professional development of nurses, including a post-registration programme to support the transition from day one to year one nurses within referral practice.

These are all areas focussed on Andrea’s study of data from the RCVS 2014 survey of the veterinary nursing profession.

Andrea, who joined Linnaeus in April 2019, said: “Anecdotally, you hear of a number of nurses who leave the profession every year, yet the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (2018) figures show it is less than one per cent.

“While that is quite a small proportion, overall, it is still a significant number of nurses and there are more still who indicate an ‘intention to leave the profession’.

“The work I did looked at what other factors correlated with ‘intention to leave’. The findings are not surprising.

“Having a clear career pathway, having a salary progression structure, being valued and respected, being used to the best of their skillset – these are all key indicators which people who have an ‘intention to leave’ don’t perceive they have.

“With this in mind, my role at Linnaeus and the launch of the nursing strategy is embedding the findings from that research.

“At Linnaeus, the central veterinary nursing team are working to ensuring there is support and education, a good working environment for those at all stages of their patient care and nursing careers. We have worked to established a support network for every group of the patent care and nursing teams within our business.”

While the development of nursing strategy at Linnaeus has been to the fore of her work over the past 18 months, Andrea has long been hugely influential within the progression of the wider UK nursing community.

She said: “I have been a member of the RCVS Veterinary Nurses’ Council for 18 years and my term as an elected member comes to an end in 2021.

“During that time, I have had the privilege to work on a number of committees of the College and am proud to have been the first RVN to chair the VN Council.

“I am most proud to have been chair of the working party which developed the Code of Conduct for Veterinary Nurses, which was a really important step in making a vocational role a professional role in terms of accountability.

“If you’re acting under the cloak of another professional, you’re never going to have individual accountability, so it’s really important for professional development.”

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