Vets4Pets Northampton Wins Vet Wellbeing Award
Colleague mental health and wellbeing have always been highly important to Jenny Millington and Sally Courtney of Vets4Pets Northampton.
Colleague mental health and wellbeing have always been highly important to Jenny Millington and Sally Courtney of Vets4Pets Northampton. So much so, that during the past 12 months, they and their colleagues have implemented a number of fantastic initiatives to support in this area. These efforts have resulted in the practice recently receiving the 2019 Vet Wellbeing Award, medium-sized practice category, from the Society of Practising Vets (SPVS), in partnership with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative.
The Vet Wellbeing Awards, which is the only one of its kind within the UK veterinary community, aims to highlight the significance of wellbeing within the profession, celebrate all of the great things veterinary practices do in this area and help to share ideas and best practices for the greater good.
I have a duty of care as an employer,” says Jenny. “People spend a lot of time at work, and I have a responsibility to look after the wellbeing of colleagues.
The award application process requires practices to demonstrate the positive steps they have taken in six key areas:
- Promoting physical and psychological health at work
- Relationships at work
- Communication at work
- Career Development
- Workload and work scheduling
- Work demands
As Joint Venture Partner of Vets4Pets Northampton, Jenny has a strong sense of responsibility when it comes to looking after her team, and subsequently, she and Operations Manager Sally work hard to embed wellbeing into every aspect of daily practice life.
I have a duty of care as an employer,” says Jenny. “People spend a lot of time at work, and I have a responsibility to look after the wellbeing of colleagues. Veterinary professionals have a stressful job with so many pressures, so I try to make people as healthy as possible both physically and mentally at work.”
We also try really hard to embed into our practice and culture a good, flexible work-life balance,” says Jenny. “We’ve made it a priority to make sure everyone has the best rota and working hours possible for them.
After attending the SPVS Annual Congress in 2019 and hearing from the 2018 award winners, Jenny and Sally discussed ways the wellbeing initiatives already in place in their practice could be enhanced and were excited to bring in changes.
As a busy, 24/7, RCVS accredited Small Animal Hospital with more than 30 colleagues, it was of upmost importance to Jenny and Sally that all colleagues benefitted from the practice’s wellbeing initiatives.
“One of the first things we did was to have three colleagues trained as mental health first aiders – that was very important to us,” says Sally. “Another thing we did quickly was create a wellbeing committee comprised of two people from each of the Vet, Nurse and Reception teams and empowered them to organise wellbeing events. We’ve had a friendly baking competition, colleague awards, and for our Christmas party, we paid for locums to be on duty during the night so all team members could attend.”
“We also try really hard to embed into our practice and culture a good, flexible work-life balance,” says Jenny. “We’ve made it a priority to make sure everyone has the best rota and working hours possible for them. We also offer our team volunteer days, birthdays as a paid day off, a gym membership, generous CPD allowance for all team member and management, training, mentoring, and support with personal matters. We also never allow lone working, and we encourage flexible working applications.”
The practice also supports team members who need to take extended periods of time off work for personal or health related reasons, and during the past 12 months, it has recruited additional team members to better balance workloads.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have won this award!” says Jenny.
When asked what advice they would give to practices looking to implement a wellbeing programme or improve or enhance what’s already in place, Jenny said you must first and foremost listen to your colleagues and take their ideas on board.
“It may sound a bit daunting to make these types of changes, but in reality, you don’t need to launch one huge initiative,” says Jenny. “A lot of little things that you start introducing will make a big difference, and the end result will be a happier and more stable team, which is exactly what you’re aiming for. This will also create a positive trickle-down effect to your clients, and it will also help with recruiting.”
So, what’s next for this wellbeing-dedicated team? For May, they have organised a charity abseil for Vetlife — Vets4Pets’s ‘charity of the year’ — at the National Abseil Centre in Northampton. Vetlife is an independent charity that started more than 100 years ago. Its volunteers, who are all from the veterinary industry, dedicate their time to helping the veterinary community via the charity’s free, 24-hour helpline, which people can either call or email. This is just one part of the overall support Vetlife offers to the profession.
Vets4Pets Northampton first opened its doors in 2009 and has since gained seven accreditations from the RCVS. It also received the 2019 Vets4Pets Graduate Practice of the Year award for the outstanding support it provides to its veterinary graduate colleagues.