Ami Sawran Thriving In Practice

Ami Sawran outlines why accessibility is a priority and how it can improve life for all team members. Ami is a farm animal veterinary surgeon and Clinical Director at Westpoint Farm Vets, and the first UK recipient of the Bright Minds Practice Game Changer award for her focus on improving practice culture in the veterinary profession. She sits on the board of SPVS, and the RCVS Diversity and Inclusion working group.

The first step towards progress is acknowledging that as an industry, we have not historically been particularly inclusive. After all, in the pre-Cust days, why would we have needed to be? Everyone was the same, right? To be honest, probably not, but it wouldn’t have been the done thing to speak up about it. Get on, or get out, I imagine.

In more recent history, it’s fair to say that we have started to appreciate the benefits of more flexible working to allow for different needs. Women at work remain disproportionately affected by caregiving responsibilities, though it’s important to recognise that making reasonable adjustments isn’t just the fare of those who need to balance childcare and a career. Flexible working, and part time hours are just two examples of reasonable adjustments that we make to ensure retention of our veterinary teams – but there is so much more to consider.  So much, in fact, that it can be overwhelming.

So that’s why this year, SPVS congress will be focusing on not overworking your brain, and encouraging members to work smarter, rather than harder. We work by giving you the tools needed to make practice life easier, for leaders and the team that will inevitably benefit from that sound leadership.

SPVS Congress delegates in a workshop session

Awareness about accessibility

As awareness of different needs begins to permeate our profession’s conscience, we have been forced to consider the consequences of ignoring the fact that other people within our profession have different needs. Those needs may require us to make some adjustments to our standard ways of working, but they do not preclude these team members from being talented, useful, and altogether excellent colleagues. To be ignorant of these needs is something that can harm; erase humanity, breed feelings of exclusion, cause people to become more unwell, and ultimately less inclined to stay in our profession. It doesn’t take an MBA graduate to determine that humanity aside (though it never should be), none of that makes business sense. Team members who feel seen, cared about, and who have had their feedback responded to are more inclined not just to remain in their workplace, but to recommend it as one that responds to the needs of individuals within the team. Improved patient and client care is a happy consequence of a fulfilled team.

To be aware of the benefit of diversity is one thing, but to make your workplace a safe and welcoming place to be for those diverse team members is quite another. I think it’s also fair to see that achieving that can be a daunting process.

SPVS Congress delegates in the Leadership Actions stream

Inclusivity can to some, be one of those buzzwords with nebulous meaning. To someone who has navigated the world never feeling excluded, it may be an alien concept. The first thing I would like to say to someone who has never felt this way is – to be inclusive will not take away from you, or anyone who does not belong to a minority group. It does not necessitate a quota, nor an active sabotage of people without different needs – it’s simply affording equity. It ensures that you have the best team for the job, who can stay in a job because their needs are met – whether that’s through using different furniture, timing, language, food or equipment.

Support to create inclusive workplaces

A stumbling block for the perfectionists among us, is that no matter how much we try to be inclusive, we will inevitably get something wrong (or maybe just not totally right!) And though there may be negative consequences, they are not usually reasons to stop trying. To clinically contextualise; you’re not going to retire from doing a routine surgery due to one poor outcome – we are taught to reflect upon and learn from mistakes so that we can do better next time. This is exactly why we will be hosting talks at SPVS Congress on inclusivity, allyship and how to approach these subjects in a practice setting. By providing spaces where open discussion can be had, and perhaps difficult issues raised, we work together to improve work life for all team members. With a session from Kirsty Pickles, we aim to shed light on how we can encourage our neurodiverse colleagues to thrive. Affinity Futures will also present on tackling discrimination and understanding the ‘difficult’ employee.

Accessible Congress       

It is all very well presenting ways in which we can make reasonable adjustments to cater to a diverse workforce, but it is also vitally important to ensure the comfort of attendees at our January Congress. I think we can all relate to various conferences being interesting, but also tiring experiences. I had never fully appreciated just how challenging some conference-scapes could be before attending talks led by neurodivergent professionals, for example, or listening to the experiences of others who found themselves with nothing to eat because provisions had not been made for anyone with dietary requirements.  Many aspects of conference navigation, we take for granted, but it has been encouraging to see the team take this to heart to provide an explicit list of adjustments made to the Congress, including accessible rooms, quiet spaces, sensory tools and streamlined presentation communications.

The SPVS team have been working tirelessly to make this the most inclusive Congress possible. Don’t just take it from us though, as Claire Hodgson, Director of BVCIS and Affinity Futures has noted: “It’s great to see Congress organisers recognising the value of accessibility at events and taking steps to ensure everyone feels welcome and included.”

The accessibility credentials of the event can be found here: and the team are always open to feedback as to how to improve this aspect of our event management. As with anything, we can only measure the effectiveness of our efforts by putting them to the test, so we invite you and your practice teams to come along and see for yourself what it means to work smarter, not harder, at SPVS Congress on the 25-27th January 2024.

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