Today (Wednesday 17 February 2021) the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has published its Diversity & Inclusion Group (DIG) Strategy, setting out how it will work to help create veterinary professions where everyone can flourish and which have no place for discrimination.
The Strategy (available to read here) takes a holistic approach and its six work-streams consider how the RCVS and other organisations that form the membership of the DIG can work to improve diversity and inclusion within the veterinary professions at all stages – from school-age children who may be considering a career in the veterinary professions, to engendering positive culture change for those already in the professions.
The six strategic work-streams, with examples of associated activities within each, are:
•Recruitment to veterinary/ veterinary nurse education and training: developing case studies, ambassadors and careers materials for school-age children from all backgrounds; commissioning research to better understand barriers to veterinary professions; and working with organisations that support applications from individuals of diverse backgrounds.
•Retention and support within vet and VN education: updating veterinary school standards to reflect diversity & inclusion aspirations; implementing suggestions made during recent the RCVS and Veterinary Schools Council Roundtable for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) veterinary students and holding a similar event for BAME student veterinary nurses; and developing clear reporting systems and support for those who suffer from discrimination during extra-mural studies (EMS).
•Recruitment within the profession: encouraging veterinary organisations and workplaces to take up recruitment awards/ standards eg Stonewall, Race at Work, and Disability Confident; helping employers understand the business, moral and societal case for diversity & inclusion; and, working with employers to develop a toolkit to support better recruitment practices and encourage people to call out poor examples.
•Retention and support within the professions: strengthening standards regarding staff support within the Practice Standards Scheme; encouraging members of the veterinary team to attend diversity & inclusion training; producing materials that support difficult conversations; and, strengthening the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct to enable more confident reporting of poor behaviours.
•Organisational policies and procedures: RCVS and other organisations within the DIG ensuring their policies promote and support diversity and inclusion; developing a toolkit to better support in-house conversations around diversity; and encouraging veterinary organisations to have regular discussions around diversity & inclusion and visible statements of intent.
•Culture change: improving the diversity of governance/ leadership within the veterinary professions; ensuring diversity and inclusion is included in agendas at events, within CPD programmes etc; and enabling organisations to have, via the RCVS Diversity & Inclusion Group, a safe space to discuss progress and identify where they may need further help and guidance.
The RCVS Diversity & Inclusion Group includes representation from the Association of Veterinary Students (AVS), British Veterinary Association (BVA), the British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS), the British Veterinary LGBT+ Society, the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), the Major Employers Group, the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and the Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) and will be responsible for monitoring and evaluating progress within the six work-streams on an ongoing basis.
Dr Niall Connell, Senior Vice-President of the RCVS and Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Group, said: “I’ve always been of the opinion that making the veterinary professions more diverse and reflective of British society at large, as well as protecting fellow professionals from discrimination, isn’t just a moral issue, but one that actually improves the quality of the profession and the outcomes we are delivering for our clients and patients.
“If we are losing colleagues to discrimination or just not attracting people from diverse backgrounds in the first place because they think it’s ‘not for people like them’, then we are losing out as a profession, and if we aren’t drawing on a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, and attitudes in our work, then we are also potentially doing a disservice to our patients and clients. This is why this Strategy is not just a case of being seen to be doing something, but is actually crucial for the ongoing vitality and credibility of the veterinary team.
“It’s important to emphasise that this Strategy is a start, and not an end in and of itself. There will be lots of hard work to be done and challenging conversations to be had, and results may not be quick or immediately obvious, but I am proud that we are taking a proactive approach and not just saying ‘things will change with time’.
“Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues on the DIG for their work, their feedback and their insight into producing this document and look forward to working with them going forward to fulfil these aims.”
Dr Mandisa Greene, RCVS President and a member of the DIG, added: “Fulfilling this Strategy will involve a lot of hard work over the coming months and years but I am glad to say that many of the activities it outlines are already underway both at the RCVS and our partner organisations, building on the pioneering work that organisations such as the British Veterinary Association, British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society, the British Veterinary LGBT+ Society, Animal Aspirations and others have been undertaking.
“For example, we have already held a joint RCVS and Veterinary Schools Council Roundtable with BAME students in which we heard about their experiences, issues that they have encountered and how they felt they could be better supported. These discussions led to the formation of a new RCVS/VSC Working Group that will take forward actions as a priority.
“Our Mind Matters Initiative has also funded a vital piece of research being undertaken by BVEDS and the Royal Veterinary College on the impact of racism on the mental health of BAME veterinary professionals which will no doubt highlight some critical actions to take to better protect members of the professions from discrimination and improve how discrimination is reported and dealt with.
“On a personal level, I have also been undertaking a number of school talks and providing one-to-one mentoring to school students about veterinary careers because I think it is important that children from a wide variety of backgrounds can see me, as a Black British woman of Caribbean heritage, as a role-model for diversity within the veterinary profession and know that the professions can and should be welcoming to all.”
The Strategy is available to read in full via the RCVS website, and can be downloaded in PDF form, here.