Thanks to the RCVS SIII survey the results are in and what vet nurses do every day across the UK has been confirmed. Those of us in #planetrvn know what we do, but ensuring the team, our employers and the wider public know what we do is hugely important.
These results show that we need to work with vets and our employers to ensure the vet team utilises nurses skills fully. Increasing job satisfaction, career routes and hopefully retention of vet nurses.
In the veterinary industry we sometimes use our own language and this can be confusing for clients. We can also be a bit vague with our timings and while this can be due to the nature of healthcare procedures and unknown emergencies we could sometimes be a little more precise with how we describe our day to our clients. Read the original blog here…
I’ve been writing and publishing blogs for the lovely people at Vet Times for over 5 years and in that time I’ve been fighting a secret battle. With the advent of a space for Veterinary Spoonholders to share their stories and get support I thought I should share my Spoonies status with you all. Read the original blog here…
I’ve always held an admiration for some parasites. They are tiny superheroes whose entire existence is to put in minimal effort to get the maximum out of living off others.
Owning pets means you do need to consider how to prevent them getting parasites and how to treat them if they arrive. In this blog I recall the horror of moving house to find some unwelcome guests who were not paying the mortgage!
Your pet or home having fleas doesn’t mean you are unclean or a bad pet parent… these guys are pretty indestructible check out how I coped read the original blog here
Vet nursing is a ‘young profession’ as the average age of a vet nurse is around the early to mid 30’s. This doesn’t mean that members of the profession are all young and career longevity is improving so staying in the profession is easier and more fulfilling.
All this means that inevitable the menopause will hit our industry as we are still a female dominated work force.
I have found some ideas and support for those of us in clinical work and non-clinical work so read the original blog here
May has come and gone and the associated activity for Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month has started to die down. But there are still the competition results to find out – who had the best selfie, the best waiting room display and best campaign event?
If you want to find out more about #whatvnsdo then Read the full blog here…
I apologise in this blog if you aren’t an Archers fan, I know this daily 13 minutes of radio can be divisive. However the on going issue of the visibility of the vet nursing role seems to crop up everywhere and at the time the vet focussed story lines really showed the absence of, well, anyone else in a vet practice that keeps it running besides the vet!
Although since this blog a ‘vet nurse’ has been mentioned… when a fractious cat needed handling! Love it!
Making work fit in with all the different situations life throws at you can be tough. I’m hoping this blog can help as it highlights that asking for part time or flexible working hours is not just for those with children or those returning to work after maternity leave.
Its very exciting to now be writing blogs for clients at Any-UK-Vet – a fabulous resource to find vets wherever you are in the UK.
Here’s a blog about an unpleasant problem all pet owners might face… fleas!
As the holiday season approaches those of us in practice face increasing requests for pet passports. But do these work just like human passports and how much freedom do they really give you?
The protection offered to the veterinary nurse title by the RCVS Code of Conduct is very important and the veterinary community need to work together to uphold the code.
As its Vet Nurse Awareness month in May this is a timely reminder to value your vet nurses.
In this blog I suggest how to avoid breaking the code when it comes to job adverts and practice websites…
My recent blog for Vet Times was about the practice of booking fake appointments as a way to manage your diary in clinics.
It took on some rather interesting legs and inspired a number of responses including several letters to the Vet Times letters page!
Thanks for reading and responding!
When your inbox is filled with GDPR requests in can make checking emails rather dull, so I was even more pleased than usual to get an email from blogspot to say my YouTube channel is in the Top 75 Veterinary YouTube channels in the world!
In fact its at No 34! How amazing is that!
Thanks to the amazing subscribers and viewers who have made the channel such a success. We’re very close to breaking into the top 30 channels so if anyone else would like an emails roughly every 2 weeks to show you my latest video then please SUBSCRIBE and boost our chart position!
Its hard to believe how low I was feeling when I started recording some videos hoping to help a few students… that was 2 years ago and look where we are now! The student vet nurse community really saved me with their positive feedback – THANK YOU!
There is no such thing as ‘standard terms and conditions’ for employment in the veterinary world. The needs of each practice are unique and therefore the employment contract is usually unique too!
For you this provides room to negotiate or select where you work that suits you most. It also means you should consider what means the most to you – hours? salary? discounted care for your pets?
You choose – read more here
Phone calls regarding unusual requests are pretty common in the vet world. I have answered questions from hamsters having a stroke to stray turtles on the motorway.
Yet, its a call from my training days many years that stands out. It involved cryogenic freezing and I’ve not had a phone call like it since… read more here
Recruit4vets get a lot of feedback on what people look for in a job advert, and in the job itself. They supply both permanent and locum positions for vet practices and as we were discussing blog ideas last year we hit upon the idea of getting a poll together to ask what people really had as their top priorities.
Yes, there are salary surveys by many organisations but that’s for the role you are in now… R4V wanted to know what was the biggest, and smallest motivator when looking for a new position and I wanted to prove that talking about money doesn’t hurt, it only helps with the recruitment process.
As we all know mentioning salary or working hours in a job advert seems taboo for many veterinary employers… well let’s see how important that is to you … read more
I know I probably over share about the life of the husband – G – and his relationship with the pets, but he’s played a blinder today.
Tillie has been a little picky with getting her meds in her usual smoked ham sliced roll – check the video on how to make them. But for the last few days the ham trick isn’t working well enough.
So I suggested going back to try the ham and cheese spread combo, but we only had soft cheese! Lovely G made up her meds as ever this morning, adding the cream cheese and this is what I got up to after he’d gone to work…
Poor Gs efforts for Tillie were in vain, soft cheese wasn’t for Tillie so I’ve headed out in the snow to get cheese spread to make sure she’ll take her medication with the littlest fuss possible.
Medicating cats is difficult at the best of times so now that our favourite trick has gone we’ll keep looking for new methods and keep you posted on our progress.
As for G there are little moments were I think I couldn’t have a better husband – and this was one of them. Caring for pets with illnesses can take its toll and having someone to share the load with is much appreciate, and when it’s someone who cares so much it makes it even easier.
I’m really pleased to announce that I’m now working with any-uk-Vet.co.uk to provide blogs for pet owners. This adds to my current blogging for Vet Times and Recruit4vets which are mainly focussed on the vet industry.
My first blog was concerning that thorny issue of being a vet nurse who owns a Peke – a flat faced dog of the type that has seen a lot of negative press recently. How do I feel about this and what do I do to keep Hollie healthy? Read more!
I’m really honoured to be chosen to speak directly to pet owners and share my knowledge and experience of being that curious hybrid of vet nurse/vet client as I progress throug the care needed for a high maintenance Peke and a cat who seems to let none of her chronic health issues hold her back.
How do you know when your pop-offvalve is open?? Or more importantly when it’s closed??
Check my latest video here!
Christmas isn’t all fun and parties for everyone, so for the #planetrvn Christmas message this year it’s time to give some tips to have a Christmas you like when you don’t like Christmas,
Christmas can be stressful for us all – including our pets. Check out my blog at Recruit4Vets
I first became familiar with the # when training as a veterinary nurse. The symbol appeared frequently as the practice saw a high number of emergency patients and there were the inevitable broken legs from dogs being hit by cars and the broken jaws and pelvis of the high-rise syndrome cats.
Happily I now associate # as a hashtag and enjoy using it on social media, a little different from seeing it and knowing I was heading into theatre for a 3-4 stint. I find on social media people usually see a # and either love it, avoid it or misuse it, so what is it, what does it do and how can you use it?
What is a # ?
Simply put a # is a form of metadata. i.e. it provides data on other data. While that sounds quite dry and dull it’s a very specific way of saying that a # used on social media links all posts that use that #. # terms are also picked up by search engines so can help with your SEO.
It’s an easy way to link people with similar interests or to raise awareness of events or issues without it being focused on an individual account or page.
What is trending?
It is usually the content of a # that you will see “trending”. Trending describes the list of the most popular topics on social media sites. It can be a single word, a phrase or a name. It lets social media users see what is popular on their platform at that time. It can help spread messages quickly which, like my previous blog on viral posts can be really beneficial.
Is a # beneficial to me?
Using a # is quick and easy and can create different communities within your followers and attract new followers. It saves you setting up new accounts for sharing new products or information yet you will still be able to be found on social media and using SEO – yes you can Google #s.
It can be great for short term sharing of information – like having a stall at an upcoming summer fayre or a promotion on preventative health care. I use #planetrvn on social media to link my posts and others use it too to promote what they are doing in the ventures world. It also makes the posts less about me and my account as a person, its a community.
How do I start one?
Choose your message and put a # in front of it – it’s that simple. But make sure your message is easy to understand and not easily confused with others. Avoid the basic pitfalls of:
- Bad spelling – Facebook you can edit posts on – Twitter you can’t so that will live with you forever (deleted posts don’t disappear entirely either) and people then can’t find all the posts
- Typos – as above a typo will make the # look poor and hard to find
- Punctuation – #’s don’t like punctuation and it will stop linking letters and numbers, meaning #no.1petcare will become just #no – not a great #
- # already in use – check especially with commonly used words or initials. Your message will be lost Google your intended # as well as searching on social media
- creating words you didn’t intend to – Susan Boyles album launch # was #susanalbumparty which doesn’t read well when put together
- piggy backing on popular # – some companies have done this and it doesn’t end well. We know that #strictly will trend most weekends over autumn in the UK as the BBC have Strictly Come Dancing on and it’s a show where viewers vote for contestants. Yes, it’s popular but it’s not really vet related – unless Noel Fitzpatrick is in this years contestants. Posting something about flea treatments with #strictly usually won’t win you any favours!
Managing your #
Do remember to head into your # (just click on it) and check whats going on. This means you can make sure it hasn’t been hi-jacked, but also you can respond to comments and re-post. This has the effect of connecting you to more followers and boosting the frequency that your # is seen, as well as creating a community.
#plan, #create, #enjoy
Using a # well can really expand your horizons on social media and it is a great way to increase your SEO. Avoid the pitfalls above, plan what you want to do and enjoy! Join me on #planetrvn to see how it can work.
With over 40% of households having a pet in 2016 you would think that finding a place to live with a pet wouldn’t be that difficulty? If nearly half the households in the UK have a pet then finding a home that allows pets must be easy?
It seems that it isn’t, from personal experience and news stories it appears that by having a pet you become a second class citizen in terms of housing. You can expect to be limited in where you can rent or buy and be expected to pay higher deposits and extra fees.
This issue has been brought into sharp focus for me with the recent Grenfell Tower fire. There is the issue of moving your pet safely in an emergency. Then there is the issue of where you move to. The safety precautions being taken at other tower blocks has meant residents have been evacuated to emergency accommodation. Camden Council have provided pet friendly emergency options, which is fantastic.
I hope this sees a change in attitude towards pet owners and their housing needs. Currently there are a number of issues facing pet owners when finding a place to live. Whether you are renting or buying there are limits to the properties available to you if you have pets.
When renting a property you will be required to meet the criteria of the property owner and agent before you move in. There are many properties that automatically exclude pet owners. This may be because there is a clause in the original lease for the property or more commonly it’s in the rental contract from the owner or agent. This is usually because there are fears that pets can bring disruption in the form of:
- Noise for neighbours
- Damage to the property
- Fleas or other parasites left in the property
- allergy issue for future tenants
I feel there is sometimes the assumption that as pet owners we enjoy living in a flea infested noise hell! For the majority of pet owners this isn’t true, just as there are different living condition choices for those without pets.
While there as an element of the property owners own choice in what they put in a rental contract they cannot discriminate or be unfair. Therefore if you are trying to rent a property with a caged pet such as a hamster it could very likely be classed as unfair to refuse a potential tenant. However if it is a second floor small flat with no private outside space and you are asking to rent it with two springer spaniels then a landlord can fairly refuse a tenancy.
Having said that I have found often it is the letting agents who can make life difficult. On more than one occasion when trying to find a rental flat I have had a letting agent suggest either:
- we “get rid” of our pets
- we lie to the landlord about the pets
- they alter the contract without telling the landlord
I was appalled about all 3 suggestions. Re-homing centres are filled with the results of these attempted deceptions. People either so desperate to get a place to live they re-home their pets, or lie and later lose their home and their pet.
Leasehold issues with buying flats
Buying a property is not always any easier
When I was younger I dreamed of 3 things, I would own my own flat, and have a car and most of all a dog. In my mind owning my own flat would be needed to get a pet. While it can be easier to get a pet when you own your home it is not always the case. Flats and some houses come with a lease or set of criteria about how the tenant or owner can achieve “quiet enjoyment” of the propert.
When buying a property check the freehold or lease for clauses or covenants that may preclude animals being kept there.
Particularly with flats you should get your solicitor to check the lease for any “no pet” clauses. This takes time and money. We have spent weeks waiting for a solicitor to send a copy of the lease to my solicitor, to read it and say there is a no pet clause. Even although the agent and solicitors were advised we would not buy with a no pet clause they assumed we would still go ahead. They were all shocked when we pulled out and the solicitor even said “get rid of the pets”.
There may be a clause that states you can have pets if you do not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. This is enforcing that pets come under the quiet enjoyment rights of living in a property.
What can owners do to help?
It is clear that the issues with having a pet in a property are linked to the possible issue they may cause. As a pet owner you can help yourself by taking a few simple steps.
Keep your pet up to date with vaccines and flea and worming treatment. You can provide a copy of your vet records to show your pet is registered with and regularly seen by a vet. This shows you are responsible.
You can write your pet a CV, as suggested by Dogs Trust on their excellent advice website for pet owners and landlords. The CV can include information on who cares for your dog while you are at work, or a reference from a previous landlord.
Where damage is the issue offering to pay a larger deposit can help. While I’ve always questioned the practicality of this – if my dog is going to chew off all the skirting boards 2 weeks extra rent is unlikely to cover the cost of repairing this – many landlords find this acceptable.
I would always advise to try and speak directly to the owner rather than the letting agent, or the management agent if buying. The typical estate agent wants as little work as possible to secure a sale or lease. Therefore if you are in an area of high demand they will try to find a way not to deal with pet owners. If you can speak to the people who actually make the decisions then you are more likely to negotiate a deal that includes your pets. In reality if you have pets you don’t want to move more than you have to and most people recognise this when you approach them.
Since the advent of social media we have become addicted to likes, shares and retweets. It shows our post is good – doesn’t it? If likes and shares are good then a viral post must be the best?
Well, it shows people are interested but if your post gets more than the normal number of views is it really good for you? Is the Moon the dream viral destination, or a lonely place with little interaction?
What is a viral post?
The name tells you little about what a viral post is. Yep, it’s like a virus…. It’s a post that takes over and grows larger than your usual audience and usually at a rapid pace. That might mean a few hundred shares and likes or more, but still within YOUR community. It’s truly viral if it gets shared across more than one social media platform, gets trending or spreads outside of your country, EVERYONE sees it.
Of these two options – either viral for YOU or viral for EVERYONE which do you think is best and how does it get there?
What makes something “go viral”?
viralmadnews.com – is this an image you would like to be known for?
There are common themes for viral posts we often see. The post usually provides one or more of the following:
- Invokes a reaction – good or bad
- There’s an error – beware of cropping pictures properly, typos, checking facts, photo bombs
- It’s emotional – animals always get a response! Telling a story with animal pictures/videos will always get increased interest
- New information – which might seem obvious to you but is new to clients – think of the recent interest in the posts on not giving sticks to dogs
- Use of key words or # – this creates an easy way for people to search for and find your post, naturally increasing the audience
- Timing – local papers can pick up stories that then get into national press. This is more likely to happen on a slow news day for most vet related stories.
There’s Good Viral and Bad Viral too. Posts often get shared because of a reason…
|Post type||Good Viral||Bad Viral|
|Invokes a reaction||Re-uniting lost pets||Animal welfare issues raised that are contentious – cruelty cases|
|There’s an error||An amusing typo||Client details revealed on paperwork or screen!|
|It’s emotional||Feel good stories – patients get better||Highly contentious areas
|New information||Health advice such as not throwing sticks for dogs||Issues with insurance claims – may be relevant to your clients but not to the wider public|
|Use of key words or #||Active veterinary #s such as #teamvet #planetrvn #whatvnsdo||Piggy backing from a trending # not related to your post – dodgy Bots do this so avoid!|
Social media sites have many examples of businesses promoting poorly chosen products for likes – do you want to answer all these negative comments for a the sake of a few more likes?
Is a viral post the Moon Landing of a good social media account?
This might be a surprise to you all but having a post go viral isn’t the unicorn that people think it is. As a service provider a vet practice is unlikely to see a huge benefit in having posts go viral for EVERYONE.
It will probably reach more people than you wish to register at once and they are likely to be out of your geographical area. The point of practice social media is usually to drive more clients to your door or website – but at a level you can cope with and creating committed clients who will return and again and again, not people who travel miles to attend a “celeb” vets but don’t use you for all their pets care.
There is a lack of control of a post once it goes viral. It is harder to read and respond to comments made and you will need specific software to track the post. It can be more work than you intended to keep up with a rapidly shared post.
As a vet practice in the UK there can quickly be a loss of context for some posts. Animal issues vary widely between countries and something that is of concern here may be routine in another country. This can result in then some negative comments that are not intended to be, but are posted due to the lack of context that can happen. Social media users are aware of this and you often find other posters advising people of the origin of a post. Having others correct issues is a great attribute so don’t rush to correct people too quickly yourself.
I see social media is another way of spreading the traditional word of mouth recommendations and a viral post can result in a loss of personal interaction. I like ensuring that comments on my posts or blogs all get a “like”, even if there are too many comments to respond to each individual comment. It’s the same for a business page.
Your practice Instagram is unlikely to become the vet equivalent of Beyoncè, where thousands comment and you aren’t expected to reply, just exist and be adored! It is more realistic to have tens of replies that you can respond to and engage with clients or potential clients. Therefore, a viral post can quickly remove the practicality of doing this and reduces the posts impact and ability to do what you want – increase footfall to practice or website.
What type of viral is best?
For the average vet practice a post that is in the “good” category AND is viral to YOU is the best option. These types of posts generate a bigger audience, they may be picked up by local and maybe national newspapers (or a spot on This Morning!) for a story but you still have control over seeing the responses to the post. If your usual likes are 15-20 and share 5-10 then a viral post for YOU would probably see likes of 150+ and shares hitting 35+. This is great work, and is an asset to your practice, not a burden.
Shoot for the Moon and you’ll still land among the Stars? Maybe hanging around the Stars is the best place to be, the Moon isn’t all its cracked up to be.
I admit I thought I was a bit old to be attending a festival. I like my home comforts and spending a couple of days in a field didn’t seem to offer many home comforts. Maybe there has been too much mud on TV from Glastonbury but the appeal of CPD in a field was a little lost on me.
When its summer I need to have my toes out at all times. How would I cope with mud? What if it rains, will I cope with a chemical toilet, how would I cope with the crazy festival vibe?
Still, I planned for my time in the field. I bought a poncho for the rain, a selfie stick for many photo opportunities and a floral headband so I would fit in, how could I not enjoy myself?
Well Dear Reader, enjoy myself I did. Everything about VetFest was fabulous. Although there could have been more face glitter….
Let’s start with the important part – the CPD. The lectures were held marquees creating a fab atmosphere. To counter the noise from neighbouring marquees there were headphones for attendees and it looked like we were in a silent disco.
The subjects were varied and the presentations of a really high standard. I was sorry to not to have been able to go the rehab lectures on the Saturday as they looked amazing. I really enjoyed Kieran Borgeats cardiology and Jon Bowens behaviour and noise phobia lectures.
The facilities needn’t have had me worried. The toilets were actually pretty plush. The food was fantastic – the best I’ve had at any CPD. There was also plenty of places to top up your water bottle and the food was served in cardboard containers. It was easy to avoid single use plastics so I was really happy.
The atmosphere was laid back and friendly. The small size of the festival really helped. I had envisioned a huge queue for food and toilets but that wasn’t the case.
A few days before we had received an email about an embargo on broadcasting any of the key note with Russell Brand. It all made it seem pretty serious but I needn’t have worried. The discussion between Russell and Noel was great. Relaxed, fun, but discussing the pressures on the vet industry and what we can do about it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that being in our industry makes us part of a special club that’s an honour to be in it and we need to look after each other.
This was possibly the friendliest CPD meeting I’ve been to. I had an absolute blast, met so many great people and learnt loads, all while being outside! I’m thinking next year I get a VW Camper van and stay for the weekend! See you there in 2018, when everyone will have their toes out!
While highly sought after by intelligence agencies Code Breakers in the vet nursing world aren’t as sought after. The Code of Conduct is not there to be broken, it’s the one written piece of guidance that protects the title ‘Veterinary Nurse’.
Check the Code of Conduct for VS or VN – under the section “and the profession”point 3.5
This means that when referring to ourselves or colleagues we need to use the correct terms. The code of conduct states we should not be referring to those not on the register (RVN) as a veterinary nurse. This period as referring to anyone caring for animals as a “nurse” is over. There is a difference.
There are still people with misleading and incorrect information on their profiles on social media and are posting under that guise for advice. This is potentially very complicated, serious and dangerous.
The advice given to a fellow RVN with differ from that given to a lay person as there will be assumptions about the legality of certain actions.
Using the incorrect title when job hunting – either permanent or locum – has huge implications. There have already been successful cases of fraud against individuals working as RVNs when they are not on the register. These involve possible prison sentences, financial fines and a criminal record.
As many vets will employ lay staff with titles such as Care Assistant consider using these titles instead of nursing titles. Working in a vets is a sought after position, take pride in having that position. If you are a student then use SVN, it’s a highly coveted course to say you are on and the title carries legal responsibilities too. Take pride in being an SVN. If you are an RVN then shout about it! But only once you are on, and stay on the register.
Can I be a VN?
The post nominal VN is no longer in use. If you have previously been an RVN then you can put that on your CV but make it clear if you are no longer on the register. Using VN post nominals creates confusion as people assume you mean RVN and thus may use this title and describe you as a veterinary nurse. This may lead people to put you in situations you shouldn’t be in.
What can I do?
You can make sure you use the correct title for yourself, check your employer has the correct details on their website or any data they have for you. Be the industries eyes and ears on social media, websites and job adverts.
The RCVS professional conduct department are always happy to advise you if you aren’t sure of anything. If you wish to discuss an issue then screen shot the issue or find out the evidence. Email Prof Con firstname.lastname@example.org
Or directly contact the people on this list:
While the RCVS cannot regulate non-vets or RVNs they can advise you on the best course of action. Be polite, always bear in mind it might be a genuine error and present yourself as a professional to be listened to, and don’t be the one to Break the Code.
We also need to consider our staff and giving consent and handling data.
Team photos and stories are popular with clients. You need only see the number of vet shows on TV to see that people love to see behind the scenes at a vets. If your team are to feature they too must consent to their image and information being shared. This could be included in staff contracts or handbooks and discussed at induction. Staff can also change their mind about consent so you may wish to add this into annual appraisals to ensure the consent you have is current.
There may also be times when a staff member has their own pet in as a patient. While this can seem to be an ideal case to share please make sure the staff member is happy for that to happen.
Security of images
We also need to consider where images and information provided by staff come from and where they are stored. This is a long-winded way of saying you need to check who is taking pictures and what is happening with them.
You really need to have control of the devices that photos are taken on. You don’t want a situation where a staff members phone has sensitive pictures on it that get shared, either on purpose or by accident. If you are creating a library of pictures as a library for the future or for training then it is a good idea to have a practice phone or tablet that takes the photos.
Older phones that are not used as the owner has upgraded can get a PAYG SIM card or new tablets that are set up for limited functions of email, web browsing and photo storage may work well. These tablets are for sale for around £50 and would be useful for practice social media activities, if used with the practice wi-fi there is no ongoing cost, but you may wish to spend more to get extra storage as pictures do take up a lot of space.
This gives the practice control over who has the password and access to the photos. I am aware many practices also now have rules that prevent staff having mobile phones on them at work so providing a way to take photos without resorting to personal devices.
The number of images you have will build up quickly. It is prudent to keep photos and label them properly. If you are to use certain pictures regularly, such as seasonal themes then checking the patient hasn’t deceased since the last use is key. I had people share a photo of my cat on Instagram a few months after she died. While they are free to do that and the post was lovely, I still took a few minutes to compose myself after I had seen it. Please don’t upset clients in the same way! Put a name, date and reason for photo on each one so you always use it appropriately and can trace where it came from.
Copyright is often mentioned in general terms in with data protection and consent. While it is a different issue to client confidentiality you need to be aware of where your content comes from. If you haven’t produced it yourself you need to know the source. There are websites out there for fee free images to keep you safe, and you can use Google to find these:
Just copying a picture and crediting the website does not guarantee you have avoided a copyright issue so be very careful and either use your own images or copyright free ones. If you wish to use copyright images again in the future then do make sure you check there have been no changes to the images status since you found it. I would keep the URL where you found it and a screenshot of the web page. This is important in proving it was copyright free when you used it.
If you wish to use any veterinary products on your social media then contact the company that makes it. Where you used to be mailed a poster for the waiting room most companies now have a social media pack to send you, with approved images and information that are safe for you to use. This will also mean you are not breaching any advertising rules on prescription products or putting out incorrect information.
More practical, less performance
Looking at the last 3 blogs on social media for vet practices I seem to have painted a fairly bleak picture of what you need to do to have a successful and stress free social media presence. You do need to be methodical, plan, file, and control what you share.
This has been partly planned from my side. Too often people start social media with great intentions… Biogs appear announcing “Daily facts and info…” and other common errors.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to keep up daily posts and sharing posts once the novelty has worn off. It will gain you more followers longer term if you start small, but keep it up than if you post frequently but this slows down and eventually fades away.
As I said at the start its more about planning what image you wish to share and creating this than snap chatting every puppy you see. In this way social media can be stress free and enjoyable for the whole team, and for your clients.
Using social media for your business can seem like its riddled with potential problems.
- What if people complain online
- What if someone disagrees with a post
- What is consent for pictures and cases and how do I get it
- What is copyright and how can I avoid breaching it
I’ll deal with the online complaints in the future – you’re already dealing successfully with issues brought to you in house, so social media is just a new branch of this. The bigger question that gets many people unstuck is consent.
We’re used to talking about and gaining informed consent for procedures but what is consent when applied to pictures and stories, how do we ask for consent and how do we make sure we do not become liable for copyrighted content use.
The RCVS have a guide for using social media and it’s an easy to read guide. It covers the basics and while it speaks from using social media from a personal point of view it is applicable to business use.
- Avoid bringing the industry into disrepute
- Avoid inappropriate behaviour
- Protect the privacy of clients, colleagues and friends
When do you need consent?
You need to be able to explain what you will do with a picture or case details for clients or staff to be able to consent. This is where the planning posts are worth a re-read. I would ask for consent in these situations:
- You need to share pictures or information with another vet for diagnosis
- You have planned posts that this case or picture would fit
- You would like to feature the pet in the future as it is an interesting case that could educate people
We often share case details with other professionals and this requires the clients consent – it’s not just for sharing information publicly.
Let’s check the law
According to the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) vet practices hold personal data. This means you need to comply with the DPA. While the act is quite a lot to read through the Information Commissioners Office have great guides for the public and for organisations. In their view we hold data that can identify a member of the public and this should not be shared without their consent.
That seems pretty easy? We wouldn’t post their address or phone number online so we’re safe? If we post a case and no picture it won’t be able to be identified, will it?
This is where consent gets tricky. We never know who is reading the information we share. That can be exciting and interesting and can make things go viral – the unicorn of social media. Not knowing who is reading your posts also opens you up to people misusing or misinterpreting the information you share. This is why you need consent, even if you think the information or picture is not identifiable.
With so much already going on in a vet practice how do you gain consent?
Show what you are doing
Clients will be more likely to consent to sharing pictures if they can see some of your posts. To show what your activity is on social media you may wish to use pictures from your timeline in the waiting room. You also get more use out of great posts by using them as your own adverts – a simple screen shot and a colour printer and you have personalised posters – and may gain some more followers.
Review your current consent form
Consent for sharing information can be incorporated onto your current consent form. This can take whatever format you need but I would recommend having two aspects to consent for sharing pictures and information.
We need consent to share data with other vets, I would put this on the consent form as non-optional consent. This removes the stress of asking every client if they will consent to sharing information for diagnosis – especially when it isn’t always clear at the start of a case this will be needed. This consent should include the taking of pictures for training. We have all benefitted from seeing photos and videos of patients. Previously the preserve of textbooks we can now create our own library of images from the cases we see every day.
The RCVS recommends:
If a veterinary surgeon considers it is appropriate to discuss a case – for example to further an animal’s care or the care of future animals – steps should be taken to anonymise the client, and/or the client’s animal. Veterinary surgeons should note that although individual pieces of information may not breach client confidentiality, the totality of the published information could be sufficient to identify a client.
With gaining consent for taking photos for use within the industry you have already cleared one hurdle for getting photos for social media. During a busy shift, or with critical cases you have consent to take photos. If you decide in the future they are useful for social media you can contact the owner at a more appropriate time.
You should include an optional section for sharing on social media on your consent forms. This can be simply worded and have the option to tick for consent. It is worth training staff on your social media policy so they can explain to clients what giving consent means.
I like LifeLearns template and it’s available for free here. Again, it splits the consent into two sections – one for consent to share the image but also a second statement that covers any alterations to the image, such as adding an arrow or notes to a point of interest. It is best practice to say you will share any alterations with the client before they are shared.
While the line about compensation may seem a little dramatic it does clarify that you and the client understand that what happens to an image once it is in the online domain is beyond your control – to quote Dangerous Liaisons. You can adapt this form to suit your needs.
Options for sourcing pictures with consent
You can get clients to send their own pictures in. A post on social media could say you’re supporting Rabbit Awareness Month and please send in pictures of your rabbits for you to share. The client is then consenting for its use by submitting the picture. To ensure you are giving enough information, state where and when pictures will be shared – website/social media – and in what context. You may wish to have categories showing best hutch, most varied diet or similar so you get content to match your plans. Follow up with an email to confirm they have submitted the image and it may be used.
Other options mean going back to your planning, would you prefer to create posts that use stock images, or images of equipment and avoid the issue of client consent? You can still have a successful social media feed with minimal or no client consent required.
One final tip – never promise to use an image! Nothing will infuriate a client more than telling everyone their beloved pet is going to be a star… for you to post one image 6 months later! Make it clear their image MAY be used and it may not be in the near future. This is why explaining your plans for a picture are best practice.
Next time we’ll look at consent from staff and how to avoid copyright issues if you use photos and content from others.
We work every day to keep our pets safe. Avoiding certain flowers in the house for cats, stopping dogs scavenging bad food stuff on a walk. Carrying out preventative care such as flea and worming treatments.
That’s all great but what do you do in an emergency? The awful fire at Grenfell Tower in West London brings this to mind for me. As a city dweller with an indoor cat and a small dog what would I do if I needed to get out of my flat in a hurry and in safety for me, my pets and others? Although we all consider fire safety perhaps it’s time to stop and make a plan for what you would do if the worst happened.
As a vet nurse I have my fire training from work that says it’s very unsafe just to open the door and let the pets flee. Its stressful and unsafe for them and in the limited visibility of a fire could be a trip hazard to people. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, but letting your pets loose and hoping for the best isn’t the answer. Pets will be become as disorientated and stressed as we will in a fire and may not run to safety as you would wish. They are also likely to be a hazard to others escaping as with smoke there can be low visibility and dogs and cats can become trip hazards for people.
This raises what you might be able to do. There is the option to leave pets behind. I know I couldn’t do this, and it would slow my escape as each step would be a physical and emotional wrench. I might even get out of my flat, decide the fire doesn’t look so bad and go back to get them – this is not a good idea. You need to get out and stay out. If you are planning to take them with you then get prepared and make your decision and stick to it.
Moving your pets safely
How do you do this? With pets that don’t want to go in their carrier at the best of times how will you do this in a time of stress? Do you even have the carrier to hand and how easy is it to move quickly with a bulky cat basket hitting your knees?
Many years ago I pondered this. We had two cats and lived on the second floor. I was also nearly finished my vet nurse training and had notes and caselogs in abundance. This was before electronic backups so it was a paper copy, and for one night I had all the paperwork at home – normally it was safely spread across work, college and home. This focused my mind and I told my boyfriend that if there was a fire he had to get both cats as I would be getting my paperwork. How was he to handle two cats, including one who didn’t like him that much?
We found out about advice for New York pet owners – use a pillow case! You can put your cat or small dog in the pillow case and put a loose knot in the top. Your pet is safe, and it’s easier to carry than a basket, and there’s always a pillow case close at hand. It means you can carry your pet with one hand, leaving the other free for handrails, ladders, or helping others. You can also pass the pet to people outside the building and free your hands up to escape.
It was such a great idea we put two spare pillow cases under our beds. One slightly larger as The Flump was a bit of a hippo, but that’s another story.
Evacuation – be prepared
Prepping for evacuating your pet for disasters is a whole other blog – food supplies, meds, you need a stock for you and your pet – for everyday tragedies like home fires just plan to get out and stay out.
There have been advances from the pillow case advice all those years ago. There are now pet evacuation sacks that provide a stronger and slightly larger ‘pillow case’ effect. If you need to evacuate quickly then you and your pet can do so safely.
If you can prep just a little have a few days food, a small water bottle and your pets vaccines and identification and insurance details. Hopefully your pet can stay with you, but if they need to go to a kennel or cattery and your vets isn’t open then having all their details will make life easier for you at that moment.
It’s also worth considering having a spare harness/collar and lead ready, even for cats. Once out of the house it may be safe to have them out of the pillow case and they still need to be under control.
My first advice on pets in an emergency was from New York and there is still great advice there. If you want to prepare a little further there is a pet emergency plan to download and fill in.
A purpose made pet evacuation sack or a pillowcase is not going to be the answer to all the problems in a quick escaepe so please read this from London Fire Brigade and watch the short video. The advice is relevant for any quick escape. While the Grenfell Tower tragedy has highlighted the urgency for fire related issues in recent times close to me there have been three floods from water mains, an evacuation from an unexploded WWII bomb and a gas leak. All are reasons for needing quick, safe escapes from home.
A few minutes planning now could save more than one life if the time comes.
You’ve made the decision. You’re going to start posting on social media. You’ve read the last blog and decided what type of posts you would like to share. How do you move forward with the best balance of time spent and impact made?
One important part of choosing your style of posts is that whatever you choose to do – PLAN! You are in control of your feed and while time may be of the essence in occasional situations where you wish to locate the owner of a lost pet you always have time to consider what you are putting out there. There’s no excuse for drunken selfies in vet practice timeline!
There are numerous software brands that can make planning easier and most social media platforms let you create content for posting later. Having social media in practice does not mean having a staff member with a phone or tablet glued to them at all times.
Planning a month in advance is a good way to set up your posts, after planning the “corner stones” of the year. Events where the advice remains the similar each year : –
|Christmas||OOH cover and contacts
Christmas foods to avoid for pets
Christmas foreign bodies
Stress of visitors
|Can be used to build up to the festive period with information posts and then focus on OOH cover during the actual holiday|
|Easter||Easter foods to avoid
Wildlife in Spring
OOH cover and contacts
Rabbit welfare and rehoming
|Can be used to build up to the festive period with information posts and then focus on OOH cover during the actual holiday|
|Builds up to
5th Nov, Diwali, Chinese New Year, 31st Dec, local events
|Holidays||Hot weather – dogs in cars
Travelling with pets
Finding pet care while you are away
|Holiday season – which for many is summer, Christmas, and all year round!|
This creates a nice framework for then filling in the year with practice posts. It can make planning your social media feel a little less daunting.
While the software for scheduling posts lets you see what’s coming up, this is only once the post has been created. It’s a good idea to start with a list, table or spreadsheet – whichever format suits you – to plan your posts. This helps you keep an overview on what content is going out and when. You can make the spreadsheet anyway you like, but I like to have a notes column to remind me what I need to do for each post : –
This is quick and easy to do and easy to share. For security you don’t want everyone having the passwords to your social media accounts, but you may want to share what you have planned. It can help to have more than one view on what you are posting. Ideally a vet, vet nurse and a lay member of the team such as a receptionist. Each will be able to share what their experience is of information clients ask for. They can also share their social media experiences – posts they have seen elsewhere and liked, or disliked. Even if your planner has just the type of post you wish to put out to shape your feed, then the group decides which cases, charities or products you promote. It makes creating content easier and meetings shorter.
This poses the question – who is best for running your social media? It is commonly acknowledged that vet nurses often do this job well. We do pretty much everything else really well too! There is a cost implication here, as vet nurse time per hour is cheaper than a vets, yet we are still a regulated profession. Thus suggesting that we are aware of the legal implications of our posts and are less likely to post anything controversial. It has also been noted that vet nurses took to social media as a way to empower the community earlier than vets did. Perhaps we are the perfect social media advocates?
The theory also seems to be that the younger the member of staff, the more social media savvy they are and so will be good at this role.
This might not be the best train of thought. Yes, at age 21 you are statistically more likely to be active on social media that at age 65, however putting up posts of your personal life is different to running social media for a business. While I agree that vet nurses are great at creating ideas for social media, that younger staff may understand the technicalities of screen shots and posting memes, you need to make sure they speak for the whole practice and your client base.
A team effort of different ages, roles and experience is more likely to make a successful social media page.
Next time we’ll cover the ‘C’ word – Consent.
At BSAVA Congress this year there were more lectures and sessions on social media than ever before – showing that the veterinary industry is interested and understands that being present on the web in some form is important.
I was part of an amazing panel on Saturday afternoon. While we discussed a lot during the two hours there was even more to say! I’m writing a few blogs to try and go a little deeper on some of the questions asked.
Being present on social media adds another level to your client interaction. Where word of mouth recommendations used to have to be from person to person we now have social media. Another opportunity to create a bond with current and potential clients.
I know that there will be many of you reading this and thinking that it’s also a new way to spend time and money that could lead to a complaint being posted online that is out of your control.
I’m here to show that it doesn’t have to be like that! Creating a social media presence for your business is different to using social media as an individual. Its less about posting an amusing shot in the context of an event to tell a story and more about deciding what story you want to tell before you post.
What’s your style?
There is usually an assumption that veterinary social media must be full of pictures of animals. This is often where practices decide not to have social media. The extra work of consent from owners, following up cases, checking outcomes and consent again before sharing stories is a lot. Unsurprisingly I’ll tackle consent for social media in a blog all of its own.
However, you shouldn’t stop here.
You can decide what you want to offer on social media. What is your practice “style” going to be? What will your posts offer to the public, pet owners and clients? Who is your audience?
While it may seem that all social media is about posting as things happen and making everything instantly available this is rarely the case for businesses. Take time to decide what you want to share about your practice and how you want to share this. Running a successful social media campaign is less about snap chatting during a pyo surgery and more about planning posts to show how this situation can be avoided.
This lets you decide what type of posts you wish to share. Here are some basic examples of post types.
|Post style||Example of content||Audience|
|Service led||Advertising services
||Pet owners and clients|
|Patient/case led||Successful surgery, routine vaccines, nurse appointments||Pet owners and clients|
|Public info||Alerts for product recalls, alabama rot,||Public, pet owners and clients|
|Staff led – achievements, CPD, published works||SVN passes final exams, vet attends BSAVA||Public, pet owners and clients|
||Promoting a local rehoming charity event or sharing posts for RSPCA “dogs die in hot cars”
|Public, pet owners and clients|
|Response to news stories that cross over to daily newspapers||Throwing sticks for dogs, Babesia ticks||Public, pet owners and clients|
|Lost pet posts||Public, pet owners and clients|
Examples of post types (starting top left): case led post with Hollies hydrotherapy, service led post (my clients are vet nurses), sharing news post
Usually a combination of these works best. However, I do see practices who choose to not use patient or case led posts and focus on using service and staff led posts. These accounts still offer something for the everyone, are easy to plan and avoid the issue of consent for sharing client’s pets’ pictures. You do still need consent from staff to share their pictures and story, but this can be established as you plan the posts and let staff have input into their presence online.
Some further advice on how best to achieve some of these posts
- For staff and service led posts create a stock of pictures you can use and do this in advance
- Have a logo or practice picture you can use for service led posts where there is no other available picture
- Patient and case led posts need consent from the owners to take the pictures, not just to post them – make sure you have that
- Public info/lost pets – make sure that your message about your practice doesn’t get lost in these. Check your timeline regularly, especially if multiple people post and share
- Charity campaigns – decide which you will share and support. There are so many your timeline can easily become lost. Try and choose 1-2 local and 1-2 national charities or campaigns to post about. This gives flexibility as many of their posts will be seasonal. Consider making sure you cover areas relevant to your practice.
- Cats, dogs, exotics, wildlife, overseas welfare – there is an amazing choice
Your social media posts should be what you want them to be. If you’re not sure what style to go for then trial a few different options. Follow some accounts that you like and see what they do and see if you could do something similar, on your own terms.
Social media should not be a burden, best to achieve three great posts each week that are planned and create an achievable workload, than try to do three posts a day and end up putting out low quality posts that don’t show you as the caring professionals you are.
Next time we’ll tackle planning – the key to avoiding controversial posts and controlling your content.
My years of blogging, creating social media content and creating youtube videos are paying off!
I’m headed to BSAVA in April to talk on a panel about social media! There are a few of us on the panel, but I’m the only vet nurse! I’m a little scared but really looking forward to it.
We’re in Hall 6 On Saturday afternoon and its open to all, so come and join us to discuss the trials, tribulations, trolls and tom foolery of social media for the veterinary world.