For this year’s Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month (VNAM), we’re celebrating the theme of ‘Progression’. In this article, originally published in VN Times, February 2024, BVNA President Lyndsay Hughes discusses why a new Veterinary Surgeons Act is desperately needed. Legislation which reflects the VN profession of today, and which provides much-needed protection of the VN title.

However, there is much that can be done whilst we continue to lobby for legislative change – which means every individual can play a part in our profession’s future.

An enormous benefit of being in my position at the BVNA is that a wealth of history exists to draw on.

Last year, our 50th BVNA Congress highlighted this perfectly. It was such a privilege to have so many who have been trailblazers in our profession’s history, including past BVNA council members and presidents, together under one roof.

We were launched as an association in 1965, and it is not lost on me that this was just one year before the Veterinary Surgeons Act came into effect. It seems incredible that the legislation we were working under back in those early days – both as an association and a veterinary nursing profession – should still be the same as today.

In that time, we have all been part of the evolution of our profession into the highly skilled, rigorously trained and properly regulated workforce we are today.

Our expansive skillset means we are key assets to veterinary teams, whether in clinical or non-clinical roles, and beyond into industry. That skillset is only continuing to expand too, with RVNs creating more diverse career pathways than ever before.

Yet, we are still a profession where anyone, regardless of training, can use our title. The BVNA’s “Protect the Title” survey received more than 8,000 responses from the veterinary profession; of those, 48% knew someone using the “veterinary nurse” title despite not being registered with the RCVS.

The BVNA is doing more this year to better understand the exact scale of the issue. In the meantime, this early evidence highlights just how casually our hard-earned title is being used, and further fuels the need for legislation that truly protects our profession. To give us the respect our title deserves, and to enhance our recognition among the public, too.

We often hear from those who are frustrated at the apparent lack of progress being made in the profession; we hear you. However, like many forms of evolution, progress can be difficult to recognise while it is happening.

The BVNA will continue to campaign until our title is protected. In the past year alone, we have published our “Protect the Title” report, after more than 12,000 respondents completed our veterinary and public surveys.

We are continuing to engage with Defra, and we co-hosted a parliamentary drop-in event with the RCVS to educate MPs and peers on why our title needs protection.

BVNA co-host VN Parliamentary drop-in session with RCVS on 13th December 2023.

Lyndsay pictured with Craig Tessyman (BVNA Junior Vice President), Neil Hudson (vet and MP for Penrith and The Border), Belinda Andrews-Jones (Chair of RCVS VN Council) and Sue Paterson (RCVS President)

BVNA represent veterinary nurses at BVA Parliamentary briefing on 6th March 2024.

Lyndsay pictured with Anna Judson (BVA President) and Steve Barclay (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

We are continuing to collaborate with partners in the profession to drive awareness and, in 2024, we will be expanding our research to dive deeper into our initial survey results, launching a further MP engagement campaign, and leading conversations to gain additional support from the veterinary profession and the public.

However, as part of our incredible and skilled profession, you are also capable of driving positive progress. Why wait until legislative change occurs, when we could start having conversations now? How can you engage with your team to bring about progress at a practice level? How can clients be better educated on the vital role of the veterinary nursing team in your practice? What can we be doing as a profession to drive down this statistic of “48%”? By taking ownership of what we have the power to influence, we can be part of this change.

It is a testament to our profession that we have seen the progress we have while working under such outdated legislation. Just imagine what we could do with legislation that truly reflects who we are now, and our profession of the future – with a title reserved only for those who have earned it.

Thank you to VN Times for permission to share this article.