Working and living with a chronic illness or condition is a challenge for many veterinary nurses. We’re aware of the challenges faced by veterinary nurses who suffer from a chronic condition, so circulated a survey to gauge the extent of the issues. Almost 1,000 veterinary nurses completed the survey. The outcomes of the survey have helped us to identify specific resources to help improve the working environment for veterinary nurses who suffer with a chronic condition.

Chronic Illness

Download the above infographic here;


Webinars

Chronic illness, veterinary nurses, and the Equality Act at Work – The aim of this webinar was to provide insights in to the legal requirements of employers under the Equality Act 2010 concerning supporting VNs who suffer from a chronic illness; and to share a case study from a practice director already carrying out best practice.

A VN Listening Group – a webinar to share the tools we use to help us live with chronic illness – We share our experiences of living with a chronic illness and share some personal coping mechanisms we use to help us live and work every day.

Chronic illness and communicating what you need – This webinar was based on the principle that we all have a right to express our thoughts, feelings, and needs to others, as long as we do so in a respectful way. It examines why and how we can change and the science behind communication.

Resilience for life with a chronic illness or condition – During this “Resilience for life with a chronic illness or condition” webinar, attendees will learn how to deal with changes and learn to love the new you. Attendees will also learn about how other veterinary nurses cope and the tools they use.


Personal Stories

Find out what it’s like to be a veterinary nurse who suffers from a chronic illness or condition in a selection of blogs.

Endometriosis and adenomyosis are a bit of a mouthful, aren’t they? They are both invisible illnesses, making it particularly challenging for those affected to be believed, understood, and taken seriously.


So, here I am, fifteen years into a Veterinary Nursing career and contemplating how the last three years have changed my life for better and for worse. My name is Becky, I am an RVN. Three years ago, I received a diagnosis which changed my outlook on life and indeed my career – Multiple Sclerosis.


Looking back at my RVN journey, it’s fair to say that I have had an up and down relationship with the term self-care. From the outside looking in, self-care sounded like a guilt-free way of spending ridiculous amounts of time and money to achieve the ever-elusive feeling of happiness. But oh boy how wrong I was.


Following years of being sick all the time, having no energy and eating double the portion sizes of everyone else but not gaining weight, I was finally taken seriously in 2011. I had missed countless days of school from being so ill and had to miss morning lessons for hospital appointments. At parents evening, my science teacher said that I would struggle if I chose to do A-level science. This really knocked my confidence, and I knew I would have to work even harder to even be considered for a veterinary nursing course.


When I think of chronic illness I think of Fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and other labelled conditions. It’s why I think it took a long time for me to really investigate my own health, because needing a doctor was for sick people right? I didn’t want to waste their time or be the person that put pressure on the NHS. However, after being very poorly at the birth of my son, I thought it really was time to be a grown up and ensure I am healthy.



In 2004, at the age of 34, I was diagnosed with 3 autoimmune conditions; Grave’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogren’s Syndrome. I lost a lot of weight and developed a tremor. I often couldn’t do fine motor skill work like suturing wounds because of the tremor, and I lost confidence in myself and my abilities.


Podcasts

Take a listen to our podcasts for the BVNA Chronic Illnesses Campaign, to help raise awareness about veterinary nurses who suffer from a chronic illness or condition.

BVNA CIC Podcast in Conversation with Charlotte Pace – In this podcast, BVNA Junior Vice President, Alex Taylor interviews BVNA Council Member, Charlotte Pace, about working as a veterinary nurse with anxiety and depression. Charlotte discusses how she felt on her worst days, which support she has found the most useful, and how she will be using her own experience to help others in need.


In Conversation with Margaret McCloud – In this podcast, Margaret McCloud talks about working as a veterinary nurse with multiple auto-immune diseases. Margaret discusses how devastated she was to give up working in practice, but how she used transferable skills learned in veterinary nursing to build a new career working for the NHS.


Spoonies and the Spoonholder theory by Claire Hodgson – Claire is the co-founder of the BVCIS (British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support), and in this interesting episode, she talks about her journey to a difficult diagnosis and how it inspired her to share what she learnt about people with additional challenges in the veterinary profession. ‘There is a subcommunity for whom needing to finish work on time is the difference between not having to go home and choose whether you have a shower or whether to cook dinner … rather than being so exhausted that you have to choose between the two’. Oh! and we talk about cheese, wine, duck, and tango.


In Conversation with Helen Silver-Macmahon – In this podcast, Helen Silver-MacMahon, PGDip PSCHF, Cert VNECC, DipAVN (surg), Cert SAN, RVN, talks about how injuring her hip after a riding accident meant she needed a total hip replacement. Helen talks about how difficult some days were due to post operative limitations and how she used some of her time off to study for her masters and diversify into a completely new and exciting role for Vet-led.


Alex Taylor in conversation with Neha Sharma – In this podcast, VCA and soon-to-be veterinary student, Neha Sharma talks about how she has managed the symptoms of fibromyalgia and coeliac disease whilst studying for her A levels, a Bioveterinary science degree, and working hard to gain a place at the University School of Veterinary Medicine.


Alex Taylor in conversation with Jo Hinde – In this podcast, Alex Taylor, BVNA Junior Vice President, interviews Jo Hinde, BVNA Senior Vice President, about the difficulties she has faced battling ME, chronic back pain, and sepsis. Jo talks about how although chronic back pain meant she had to leave clinical practice; she has still managed to forge a successful career as a lecturer for veterinary professionals. Jo also discusses how she became very ill last year due to developing sepsis but how her ongoing recovering has inspired her to spread awareness about this serious condition, especially within the veterinary profession.


Charlotte Pace in conversation with Rachel Mason, talking about Ménière’s disease – Charlotte chats openly with Rachel about working as an RVN with a disease she was diagnosed with, the week after she graduated.


Working as a vet nurse with endometriosis and adenomyosis – Lyndsay Hughes and Alex Taylor – Listen to our latest podcast where Lyndsay Hughes interviews Alex Taylor about working as a veterinary nurse with endometriosis and adenomyosis.


Alex Taylor, BVNA JVP, in conversation with Anna Pepper RVN – Alex Taylor, BVNA JVP, in conversation with Anna Pepper RVN – who talks about the challenges she has faced working in referral practice as a vet nurse with multiple chronic illnesses. Anna expresses how supportive her colleagues have been, discusses the coping mechanisms she has used over the last few years, and shares her tips for making it through the day.


‘I have Crohn’s disease, but it doesn’t have me’ – A podcast by Alex Taylor in Conversation with Lauren Hargrave RVN – Alex Taylor, JVP at BVNA, talks with Lauren Hargrave about living with Crohn’s disease as a veterinary nurse. Lauren shares her successes, and her challenges and shares just how resilient she has become and ever-more determined to have a great career as a veterinary nurse.


Useful Forms & Posters

A collection of free to use templates, forms and posters for practices wanting to update or setup protocol.

CSL Poster – It’s time to recognise what incivility looks like and the impact it has on teams and patients.


HALT Poster – Plan ahead, and set out a suitable plan for short breaks for each team member. Recognise, as a team, the value in taking a break before pressing on. Support each other to take your break. Can you mitigate any of the HALT factors now?


CVS – Check In Poster – CVS have moved away from the more traditional, formal appraisal model towards check-in conversations that are colleague centred, meaningful and regular. Regular check-ins support a positive culture of wellbeing and engagement.


CVS – Wellbeing Calendar – As an example of the support and resources created by the CVS wellbeing working groups, you can download their recently launched Wellbeing Calendar.



CVS – Going Home Checklist – Launched in May 2020 to encourage positive reflection, gratitude and switching off at the end of a working day. Moving through the simple steps of the checklist can help bring awareness to our thoughts and feelings about the positive aspects of our day, whilst treating ourselves and others with kindness.


A microaggression is an intentional or accidental comment or action that negatively targets a marginalised group of people. Here are some common examples from BVA which can harm colleagues with a disability or chronic illness.


A Directory

Find out how specific chronic illness or conditions can affect veterinary nurses at work.


Useful Links & Resources

A compendium of links to articles, videos and podcasts relevant to practices and to veterinary nurses who suffer from a chronic illness or condition.

CVS – Wellbeing and Mental Health Policy – In this policy, you can see how CVS support the wellbeing and positive mental health of their colleagues; who is responsible in relation to wellbeing and mental health; how to respond to and support colleagues who disclose a mental health illness or wellbeing concern; and what support mechanisms and initiatives are available to help.


Managing Chronic Illness in the Workplace – Download a step by step description of how to manage chronic illness at work reproduced with permission of Croner-i Ltd.


Small adjustments create better culture – Article by Lacey Pitcher – When we throw the word culture into a conversation about work-based improvements, there are often a mix of reactions. To the word itself. The concept. The frustration at a term so general being used. What even is culture?


How You Can Support Someone with a Chronic Illness (and Some Real Advice on How Not To) – This article includes advice and information on how to best support someone with a chronic illness.


Mental Health First Aid – Follow this link to access a free online course for Mental Health First Aid. As a trained first aider, you will be able to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.


BVA Policy Position – This policy position includes case studies and recommendations on health and well-being; diversity, equality, and fair treatment; workload and flexibility; reward and recognition; personal and career development; management and HR processes; and culture.


Good Workplaces Hub – Follow this link to read BVA’s vision for how a good veterinary workplace should look, highlighting the core principles and key resources every workplace should have.


Health and Wellbeing – For teams to work effectively, looking after everyone’s health and wellbeing is essential. As well as its impact on individuals, poor health and wellbeing can have a financial impact on a business. Follow this link for more information from BVA on the importance of health and wellbeing.


Diversity equality and fair treatment – Successful businesses treat employees fairly. For team members to feel respected and valued at work, it is vital that workplaces are genuinely inclusive, with no tolerance of prejudice or discrimination. Any form of discrimination is illegal, reprehensible, and has no place in society. Follow this link for more information from BVA on the importance of diversity, equality, and fair treatment.


Veterinarian, Heal Thyself: How (not) to support vets with physical ill-health by Ruth Cawston – In this article, Ruth Cawston, co-founder of British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support (BVCIS), looks at how team leaders can support staff living with chronic health conditions.


Chronic illness: Professional Barriers – In this article, Ruth Cawston, co-founder of British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support (BVCIS), outlines some of the barriers to career progression faced by vets suffering with chronic illness and how these could be overcome.


Chronic Illness in Practice: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle – This webinar will give you an introduction to what it is like to live with chronic illness, how you can support colleagues who are living with physical ill-health, and how you can build a supportive and inclusive workplace environment.


Chronic Pain Toolkit – This toolkit has five key sections, each containing information in a variety of text, audio and video resources. The content includes; individual stories, understanding chronic or persistent pain, returning to work, reasonable adjustments in the workplace, employment rights, physical and psychological self-management techniques, specialist organisations and resources. This toolkit is provided by the University of Nottingham.


Wren Project – The Wren Project is a place where individuals, newly diagnosed with autoimmune disease, can talk about the emotional and social impact of diagnosis. It is a place free from judgement or advice. It is a place to feel heard as you are, validated in your experience.


Courageous Conversation with Ruth Cawston – In this recording from the 2020 Veterinary Diversity conference Courageous Conversations, Ruth Cawston gives us a quick guide to who BVCIS are and why they are needed. Ruth Cawston is the co-founder of the British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support (BVCIS).


It still hurts, even if you mean well: Disability microaggressions in practice – Part of BVA’s #BigConversation on microaggressions. Ruth Cawston, co-founder of British Veterinary Chronic Illness Support, tells us about some of the comments which can harm colleagues with disabilities or chronic illnesses, and examples of what you might say instead.


Webinar – “Why behaviour matters: what VNs/SVNs can do when faced with incivility & bullying” – Attendees will learn some practical steps on dealing with incivility and bullies and also some self-help tools and techniques on what VNs can do when you encounter incivility or bullies.


Case Studies

Discover how some practices and corporations have set up their protocols to support veterinary nurses who suffer from a chronic illness or condition.

CVS has kindly given us a brief outline of the structure and tools they use to support their veterinary nurses mental health and general well-being. They have also shared documentation that can be found linked from this case study and also in the Useful Forms & Posters section of this toolkit.


Medivet Health & Wellbeing Journey – Medivet Health and Wellbeing Committee is dedicated to support and care for the Medivet family. In this case study, see what steps they tool to create the a working committee and the steps take to support colleagues with a chronic illness or condition.