RVC veterinary team leadership and professionalism course

students on high wire
In veterinary medicine, as in human medicine, the best outcome for patients relies on all members of the care team working together as effectively as possible. This includes the vets managing an animal's care, the vet nurses or technicians who work closely with the animal, and also the scientists working in industry or academia to develop and distribute effective treatments. It is vital that students from across the veterinary team work together to develop leadership and professional skills which will help to deliver the best possible care for patients when they enter the workforce. With this in mind, the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has developed a veterinary team leadership and professionalism (VTLP) course, which is based on the USA's veterinary leadership experience (VLE) programme.

A focus on non-technical competences

The VTLP course is the first of its kind in the UK to focus on non-technical competences across the entire veterinary team, including vets, veterinary nurses and scientists, helping to prepare students for the professional workplace. It aims to:

  • Develop future leaders for the veterinary profession.
  • Improve communication between veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and scientists, including students and academic staff within each of these disciplines.
  • Create a lasting sense of team unity within the three broad disciplines of the profession (veterinary, nursing and science).
  • Have a lasting impact on the veterinary profession through closer working relationships between members of the veterinary team by developing communication skills, lowering stress and addressing mental wellbeing issues.

The course is unique in that students from veterinary medicine courses, veterinary nursing degrees and bioscience programmes will work alongside each other. Taking a highly interactive approach, it offers an experiential learning environment where students will be able to develop their intrinsic leadership skills and also learn how to work effectively across the veterinary team.

A pilot three-day residential programme saw 40 students from vet schools across the UK meet in Buckinghamshire between September 11 and 13. Students explored how to overcome barriers to success; emotional intelligence through the application of concepts of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relational skills; and the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of leadership.

Led by the RVC, the programme is a collaboration between the UK's vet schools, with academics from the University of Bristol and the University of Nottingham helping to deliver the course. Professor Rick DeBowes, the co-creator of the successful VLE in the USA, was also present at the pilot event to oversee the development of the curriculum and help to deliver the course.

Sarah Baillie, veterinary programme director at the University of Bristol, commented: ‘I was fortunate to attend the VLE a few years ago and found it to be an invaluable experience. Since then I have been keen to work with colleagues to bring the VLE to the UK as we wanted to see students and staff benefit from this unique event. Providing leadership training in a veterinary context is particularly useful as it will help attendees apply what they have learned in their daily lives.’

Future VTLP events will be rolled out to UK veterinary schools and potentially offered as CPD to the veterinary profession. Further information can be found here.

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