Where is the BVNA at right now?

The BVNA has been established over decades, its importance undisputed as the only representative body for Veterinary Nursing within the UK. The BVNA exists to be a voice for its members, ensuring that VN thoughts are given to important decisions surrounding animal welfare, the job role and the profession. During the past 52 years we have seen the VN role grow exponentially within the practice, from skilled assistants to important and invaluable allied professionals standing shoulder to shoulder with Veterinary Surgeons. However, as VNFutures has shown, although we have come so far, there is still more to be done. This is where BVNA needs to evolve to meet the new needs of the profession; maintaining the high standards of animal welfare we have always advocated.

As a profession, we now face new challenges from the outside.

The RVN workforce as it currently stands is largely a very loyal group, committed to animal welfare, compassionate and well trained. This must be maintained, however, as a developing profession there are more demands on us and we must ensure as a profession we learn to bend with these and not break. In short, we need to ensure we have resilience to match the pace of the world around us.

Important debates are taking place in which our voice must be heard. The potential new Veterinary Surgeon’s Act/Veterinary Services Act could shape the next half century of practice so it is crucial that BVNA representatives are there to input into these discussions within the RCVS working party on behalf of our members. We also have new paths to consider as the increasing need to consider both human and animal health has become more apparent, finding new ways of collaborating with our allied healthcare professions under the umbrella of One Health. With the increasing corporatization of veterinary practices, the BVNA needs to ensure we are large and flexible enough to deal with the new needs of these large organizations.

However internally at BVNA, the role of Officer on council is overstretched. Through personal experience I can state it is very heavily focused on running BVNA as a business rather than being the leaders of the representative arm of the profession. New council members are coming forward for BVNA, which shows how much individuals are prepared to drive change themselves. However, too frequently good people see the role as being too daunting. Intimidated due to the business like nature of some of the work, some people can miss the bigger picture of facing challenges and taking away valuable life lessons from the experience of being a BVNA Officer.

The need for change

You may have heard that BVNA is undertaking a Governance Review this year, but not appreciate what that means or understand any potential impact on you as a member.

Governance is not about what we are doing, it is about how we are doing it. Over the past 18 months BVNA Officers have been reflecting on how the BVNA operates as a business – the way it does things, how we make decisions and organize ourselves.

BVNA Council identified four main tasks.

First, maintaining the relevance and value of the VN profession; shaping, not just reacting to these pressures of the developing profession. BVNA wants to lead the changes required and be the representative body our members are proud to belong to. Second, “future proofing” the organization of the BVNA, starting with a review of its foundations to ensure the business is as strong if not stronger in another fifty two years!

Third we need to be better at identifying, selecting, developing and supporting Council members. They are the future of BVNA and we need passionate and resilient leaders on Council. The profession needs inspirational figure heads to lead the next generation of RVNs. Finally we need to invest in our staff as a modern workforce and organization. The staff that work for BVNA are our anchors, they run the day to day business of the office and help our Congress and courses run as well as they do. Not only do we need Council to be happy but it is crucial our staff are too.

What are the key steps we are taking?

BVNA council asked Fiona Andrew to lead the Governance Review alongside some outside expertise to help. It has been important that during this period BVNA continues to run as normal so there was no reduction in the service we give to our Members or our representation on some key committees.

The first change you may notice is changes to the existing staff team in the BVNA office. There are new job roles to help manage the growing workload among our staff. We will also be appointing a new Strategic Director to take some of the pressure off the BVNA Officers and ensure the business side of BVNA continues to develop. Throughout all of this we have kept Members at the heart of things and the new structure is organised to maximize support around three main areas of activity: Membership, CPD and Congress.

We have also reviewed the process of selection and support for Officers and President of Council. Any prospective President will now have to go through an interview process with our Advisory Committee. This view from a ‘critical friend’ ensures we select and support the right candidates to lead the Association and future leaders are helped to develop into their role.

To support council, we have formalized the role of Advisory Committee this select group will have a range of VN experience and other expert knowledge to help Council. This will include commercial and other non-sector specific skills that will be of benefit for a modern representative membership body.

Finally, a rather dry and legal exercise has been ongoing to confirm and refresh the rules by which the BVNA is organised. This formalizes many changes made over the years and refreshes them against changes in legislation to ensure we are a modern and business like organisation.

Council would like to urge all members to attend our AGM at BVNA Congress. This is an important AGM where you can ask more questions and I hope endorse these changes, captured in our founding documents. Our new staff structure will formally start on October 9th but we are already working on the transition process. During this period, whilst people and systems get settled, your patience and understanding during this time will be much appreciated.

So, what does the future look like?

Hopefully, you will not see much difference – it means we are keeping our commitments to you and coping with the challenges I outlined at the top of this article. We are still the BVNA, still working for you and your best interests – and our council will still be Registered Veterinary Nurses and student veterinary nurses to represent your views!

We always seek to improve our offer to members so our hope is you will start to see new benefits in the way we work with commercial partners and the development of our VN Voice. It was important to us that we are speaking on behalf of members at any association meeting, committee or working party that we represent you. Therefore, we set up the VN Voice, a quick poll system that allows BVNA to engage with its members and gain views on specific parts of our profession. BVNA wants to develop a louder, political voice too. We are working with a few key people and associations to lobby on key issues such as animal welfare and breed specific legislation.

Ultimately, we want to ensure sustainability of BVNA one that points to a more robust future. The discoveries we have made will also be helpful for planning and development. The changes that have been put in place will make the organization stronger by considering recruitment and retention of council and staff into a strong structure will help with planning and resilience.

We will be closely monitoring the outcome of any changes put in place to see if it is paying for itself and the benefits this will bring we are, however, projecting a positive return over the first couple of years and we hope our members think so too!


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