As we face increasing the number of training practices (TPs) to get more student veterinary nurses through the system, it’s time to look at how the relationship between employer, practice and student works.

Employment contracts should be updated, or specific training contacts introduced, to reflect what both sides expect from student VN training. IMAGE: andiafaith / Fotolia.

The costs of being a TP are often cited as an issue to becoming one. In last month’s blog, I gave an outline of how RVNs generate income for your practice and how you need to be aware of this. The same is true for the money you spend on training and supporting students.

Don’t worry – the change I’m suggesting is nothing radical. It’s something all employers should be doing, but, in my experience, few are.

It’s a contract. A contract for training and also for CPD. One showing your student or member of staff what you are both undertaking, including:

  • the financial costs
  • the timescale of training
  • how long the person stays after the course is completed

It can also include what you expect him or her to contribute with their new knowledge. Many employers pay for CPD courses, but don’t set out expectations of what they wish to gain for the practice as a whole from that CPD.

Employment relationship

Setting out financial obligations is key in this employment relationship.

I feel, especially for student VNs, it’s important they see how much it costs the practice to support them – not just in college fee costs, but costs for clinical coach support. How much does the practice pay to fund a coach’s time for tutorials and one-to-one support, as well as staff time out for training and standardisation?

We know clients are more committed to treatment that has cost them financially – it’s human nature. It works for employees, too – to appreciate the commitment to veterinary nurse training being a TP entails.

Not a moveable feast

As an employer, it’s also worth considering what happens to employment contracts if a person moves from one role to another. I’ve found SVNs who have not had a contract change or update since their initial employment.

When so many people start as care assistants or receptionists before becoming students, it’s well worth finding out what their contracts state before they head off to college.

If they are joining the apprenticeship scheme, you will also need to understand how the contracts work with your employment needs. An apprenticeship contract “is used to confirm individual employment arrangements between the apprentice and the employer”. Does this override any contract you have?

Before the student starts training, make sure you both understand where you stand.

If things don’t go to plan…

It’s best to prepare for every eventuality. IMAGE: xtock / Fotolia.

The contract should also cover a plan for what happens if things don’t go as intended.

Are any costs incurred by the student if he or she decides to leave the practice or stop being a student before the end of the course? It might seem pessimistic, but it’s best to prepare for every eventuality.

Life doesn’t stop when you start training. People need to move to new locations or take a break from training for many different reasons. Be prepared to ensure the practice and the employee don’t lose out from a change in circumstance.

Ensure there is a clear path to follow financially if the student or employee doesn’t complete his or her intended training. A contract can help both parties in a time of change.

Speaking from experience

I’ve personally experienced this being handled badly. I was told by an HR person that paying back course fees if you left the practice was “an unwritten contract”. Really? It wasn’t even a verbal contract, so it’s not enforceable.

I also hadn’t been informed of the “acceptable timescale” of staying at the practice after my course that the person was referring to. So, in legal terms, there was no contract. Luckily for this practice, I didn’t want to burn my bridges, as I was staying in the profession. However, in another situation and had I been leaving the sector, I could have left that practice with a problem.

This is the sort of situation that occurs and leaves some employers unwilling to support student nurses or even fund CPD – yet the situation has transpired because of events that are entirely in the hands of the employer.

Please don’t be afraid to talk about money and financial commitments to your staff. It’s the key to a happy working relationship.

Speak to employment lawyers, get a contract, make the training situation work for both of you – we need more SVNs, we need more TPs and employers and students need to work together.

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