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Returning to work after maternity and how gender equality matters.

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Jane Davidson RVN veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon

As vet nurses, we are privileged to work with some amazingly diverse teams of people. The nature of veterinary work and the UKs great reputation mean people travel from all over the world to work here.

 

Which I love. However, there is some inequality in our workplaces. Two areas always spring to mind. The first is the industry’s ability to cope with people returning from maternity leave. The second is the lack of equal gender representation in vet nursing.

 

My personal experience has been the industry losing amazing, talented RVNs. People we have spent time, money, blood, sweat and tears training. To have an industry unable or unwilling (?) to take them. I don’t have children but even I get frustrated with this. Of the people I have worked with closely with one is still nursing part time. One is working as a care assistant in a vets but at the moment there is no incentive to re-enter the register as there isn’t an RVN job that suits her availability. Finally one is not working in the industry at all.

 

This surprises me as I’m regularly contacted about part-time RVN positions. As we RVNs are so rare many practices organise their rota around RVN availability. This should make it easier for returning RVNs? It appears it doesn’t.

 

I realise I can’t take over the world and change this. But I’ll try to give you the correct information to help you back to work.

 

1 – know your rights

 

2 – be prepared. Visit and speak to your employer before your return. Plan your return. Things change – make sure you feel up to speed.

 

3 – enjoy it! You’re doing a great job. Having a working mother works for daughters.

 

With my personal experience of just how many people can to find suitable work after having children, and with the vet nursing team being 90% female then you might think there would be an industry wide plan to promote vet nursing to men?

 

Well… As of 4th July, this year #vnfutures has one!

This puts us a step ahead of our human compatriots. While there are concerted efforts to promote science, technology, and engineering (STEM) to us ladies, there isn’t a campaign to promote “caring” roles such as teaching and nursing to men.

 

#VNFutures has acknowledged we need to advertise the STEM aspects of our role – see p16.

 

It’s worth thinking how you could do this in your practice. We know we use science, maths and technology every day. There’s also usually some engineering. If there wasn’t then someone has created a drip pump that never beeps. A dental machine that always has great water pressure. A cat basket that doesn’t require to be Howard Wolowitz to put it together. In fact, let’s recruit lots of male vet nurses and set them these issues as a task. Roll on dissertations!

 

I’m imagining a future where you can qualify, have a baby and return to work. Where your colleagues will be as likely to be male as female. And where a combination of these great people means the drip pump never beeps.

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