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Summerhill Vets Launch Innovative Mentoring Programme

Summerhill Vets have introduced a mentorship and coaching programme, designed to help share & propagate the day-to-day success of their vets. The initiative encourages vets to achieve their professional goals as well as support them through some of their profession’s challenging aspects.

‘Work should be a positive, enjoyable and rewarding part of living,’ says programme leader Kate Dixon, who worked for the NHS as a Clinical Psychologist before retraining to become a vet. Her motivation stems from a growing awareness of the stresses faced by vets. In a recent survey, the RCVS revealed that 90% of vets describe their work as stressful. Factors such as long working hours (often during the night), professional isolation and a lack of emotional preparedness for interacting with pet owners can muddle the simple and wholesome love of animals that originally tempts these people to become vets in the first place.

The veterinary profession is one of great highs and great lows. Advancements in medicine, technology and knowledge make pet care more thorough and successful than it has ever been before. However, this is matched by advancements in client expectation – owners ask more of vets than they used to.

Taking inspiration from the BSAVA, who this summer launched a pilot mentorship programme that they plan to roll out next year, Summerhill Vets have taken similar action. They’re open-minded, are dubbing the programme an ‘experiment’ and actively welcome feedback from their staff.

Kate Dixon proposes that vets meet with their mentor every 1-2 months – off-site to encourage freer conversation – to discuss the aspects of their work they find important. It could be identifying specific career goals, praising recent successes or simply taking the time reflect upon their job, to begin asking the sort of questions that ultimately lead to a fulfilled working life.

Discussing the benefits of mentorship and reflective practice, Kate says:

‘We would strongly encourage everyone to take part. Our aim is not just to develop individuals; it is as much about changing culture – generating a positive environment for discussion, reducing stigma and increasing awareness. Everyone opting in to such an effort begins to shift attitudes; reflective practice becomes something we ALL engage in as opposed to something we do when we are struggling.’

The sessions began recently and take place during work hours. ‘We are already seeing positive results,’ says Clinical Director Roberta Eley, ‘I'm very optimistic that our little experiment will soon become a permanent fixture.’

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