rvnbadgeI am currently stuck at home with a bad back, so I’ve had plenty of time to read a debate on Vet Nurse about the list for veterinary nurses being phased out in favour of the RCVS Register of Veterinary Nurses.

It is an emotive topic and members of this forum seem to be showing resistance to the implementation of the register. In fact, some people are seeing it as a battle to prove who is the better nurse – but it isn’t about personal battles, it’s about trying to improve the overall standard of care our patients receive.

To put our current situation in context, doctors were in the same situation some 150+ years ago. The Medical Act 1858, in describing its purpose, noted: “It is expedient that Persons requiring Medical Aid should be enabled to distinguish qualified from unqualified Practitioners”.

So we are not the first medical profession required to make a distinction between qualified and unqualified practitioners – and the list was introduced as a path towards this, not to draw a division between LVN and RVN.

The distinction to be made for employers and clients is between an RVN and a lay person who may or may not have the experience they say they do.

For example, I know of a situation where a patient care assistant registered to locum with an employment agency. This person always described themselves as a vet nurse and had previously worked in a veterinary hospital where they were given a lot of responsibility. However, they had received no additional training and had limited experience in many areas.

Image courtesy The Veterinary Business Journal
With an RVN, their professional status and skills can be verified. Image courtesy The Veterinary Business Journal.

Within 48 hours of starting in one practice, this “vet nurse” was placed in charge of a cat dental. Now this person had never completed a dental, but was left to single-handedly monitor the patient and carry out the procedure.

They described to me what happened (the multiple times they turned the patient and the resulting torn trachea), but took no responsibility for what happened and couldn’t even see the link between their actions and the result for the cat.

There was also no recourse for the practice – apart from learning not to trust a lay person’s version of their skills base.

With an RVN, their professional status and skills can be verified. They will also be aware of their limitations and will protect their professional status by not taking on cases that are beyond their expertise. Surely this is better than the above?

It will take time for all practices to realise the benefit of qualified nursing staff, but surely moving towards a care system where no patient is put at risk by unqualified staff is better for staff and patient?

Receiving a disciplinary committee hearing is extremely rare. If you did find yourself in that situation the system is set up to judge your actions within the context of being an RVN and not to have a fight between vet and nurse. The Veterinary Defence Society (VDS) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) provide support.

VN Times article
An overview of critical reflection for veterinary nurses“, by Ross White (VN Times, 08.11)

For those moving from LVN to RVN. There is free CPD (see my earlier blogs here and here), free VDS cover through your practice, and low-cost individual CPD cover if needed.

I would suggest also taking this opportunity to reflect on your role in patient care. What would you like to improve and how could you do this? Reflection is explained in the VN Times article “An overview of critical reflection for veterinary nurses” (VN Times, 08.11).

Easy steps to reflection can be summarised thus:

  1. What happened?
  2. What am I to make of this?
  3. What can I do to make the situation better?

Please let’s not make this a battle between nurses, but an honest fight to increase patient care standards.

It worked for doctors in 1858, let’s make it work for RVNs in 2015.

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