Our series on “Champions for Change” will feature people of any gender in any role who are making a difference and creating positive change for women in the veterinary sector – enabling aspirations, inspiring and supporting others to grow and follow their passions, and empowering our community.

Perdi Welsh is the recently-appointed Director of Veterinary Nursing at the RVC and has spent her career promoting veterinary nurses and working to gain them the recognition they deserve. While developing post-registration Certificates and Diplomas for veterinary nurses she has consistently sought to be inclusive and offer innovative assessments to allow mature students to juggle their work, study and family lives. In her new role, she’s already introduced awards to recognise the outstanding work of RVNs in the RVC’s hospitals. Throughout her career, she’s remained passionate about helping her fellow nurses become the best they can be; her colleague, Hilary Orpet, nominated her as a champion for change, describing her as “an inspiration to the veterinary nursing community”.

Please provide a brief bio/summary of your career story

Perdi Welsh with rescue cat Mister Disco

I qualified from the Royal Veterinary College’s Beaumont Sainsbury Animals Hospital in 1991.  

After qualifying I moved to the RVC’s Queen Mother Hospital, studying for my Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing (Surgery).  

In 1994 I was appointed as nursing tutor for the first VN school at the RVC, gaining my Certificate in Education in 1996. 

I then moved to Northern Ireland, helping to set up a small animal practice with my husband. At this time, I also established and ran the first block-release VN course in Northern Ireland. 

In 2001, we returned to England, and I continued to work as a lecturer in veterinary nursing and Senior Examiner for the RCVS VN examinations. 

I gained my BSc (Hons) VN degree in 2003 and returned to the RVC to set up the first veterinary Clinical Skills Centre in the UK. 

During a two-year fellowship as a Veterinary Skills Developer for the LIVE project, I developed and produced the RVC’s BVetMed Day One Skills. 

In 2007, I set up and ran the Graduate Diploma in Professional and Clinical Veterinary Nursing. 

In 2020, I set up the Graduate Certificates and Postgraduate Certificates in Advanced Veterinary Nursing.  

In 2023, I was appointed the first VN to be Director of Veterinary Nursing at the RVC.  

I’m also an Editor for The Veterinary Nurse. 

Please summarise how you are working towards change in the veterinary professions and why you feel this is important:

My current focus on effecting change lies in teaching clinical governance to our post-registration Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Nursing (CertAVN) students.

The incorporation of clinical governance into the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct underscored its importance in improving patient care and client services. Yet, many of our CertAVN learners tell us they lack confidence and skills in initiating governance activities, especially activities such as conducting clinical audits or producing knowledge summaries.

Our course activities are designed with the aim of empowering students to embrace new challenges, foster confidence and develop leadership skills essential for a modern RVN. We specifically concentrate on enhancing their knowledge and practical application of clinical governance to equip them with the competencies needed for independent quality improvement endeavours, including leadership in the planning, execution, and communication of clinical audits and the creation of knowledge summaries.

By writing their own knowledge summaries, our RVN students acquire the ability to access the most current literature and make informed, evidence-based decisions that benefit both their practice and patients. By also engaging in the practical aspects of designing, executing, and documenting their clinical audits, they not only hone their skills in this activity, but also gain valuable experience in initiating transformative changes within their own clinical practices.

The broader transferable skills they acquire through these processes are invaluable throughout their careers, enabling them to serve as exemplars and advocates who can go on to inspire other RVNs to participate in a wide range of professional development activities.

I think having a deep understanding of your values, as well as having an appreciation of others’ values, can be incredibly helpful in building a nurturing, collaborative, and supportive community, wherever or whatever your work is.

How do you feel this is making a difference?

By the end of their studies, our CertAVN students tell us about the interventions they’ve introduced into their clinical practices and the positive impact these interventions are having on their patient care and running of the practice. They say their knowledge and understanding of the specialism they’ve studied has increased, but importantly for me, they say how much their confidence in their abilities and leadership skills has grown. They tell us they feel empowered, more confident, and capable. 

By leading in a range of clinical governance and quality improvement initiatives and finding their own voice in practice, I believe these learners become sources of inspiration for other veterinary nurses.

Since our first intake of students in 2021, our CertAVN course has successfully guided over 55 RVNs from all over the UK through the process of creating their own clinical audit reports and knowledge summaries.  

These RVNs are the ones making a difference and it’s great to see them empowered to disseminate their research, share their knowledge, and improve the quality of clinical practice across the UK. It emphasises how experiential learning, activities and support for learners at each stage of their journey can really drive positive change in the profession and in clinical practice.

What motivated you to want to change things?

My motivation to drive change stemmed from several factors. Firstly, the introduction of the RCVS’s new framework for post-registration qualifications presented an opportunity to enhance career progression options for RVNs, aligning with the profession’s evolving vision and the efforts of groups like VN Futures.

Recognising the significance of clinical governance in informed veterinary care, and the shift towards acknowledging that these activities are the collective responsibility of the entire veterinary team, we were motivated to address the relative unfamiliarity many RVNs had with these concepts. 

Through the CertAVN program, we aimed to offer structured guidance and support to our learners in navigating clinical governance. Our goal was to empower them with the abilities and confidence needed to embrace these essential activities. We created tailored learning and assessment activities, ensuring a consistent level of instruction and support throughout the journey.

We believe that RVNs have promising opportunities for diversification and expanded roles in specialised areas of practice. To prepare them for increased professional responsibility, we strive to equip them with the skills to be proactive leaders in the quality improvement team.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in this journey and how have you overcome them?

There have been challenges, foremost among them being the establishment of the course itself from scratch in a relatively short space of time and getting it through the rigorous university validation processes and RCVS accreditation application. The first year demanded intense effort and, as a small team, we faced the task of instructing learners on clinical governance activities at a level we hadn’t previously undertaken. This presented a steep learning curve for us. Support from our own network and the application of time management skills were pivotal in overcoming these challenges and played a crucial role in getting the course up and running and successful.

Despite the initial hurdles, our wonderful and resilient CertAVN students surpassed our expectations and working closely with our first two student cohorts has proven to be incredibly rewarding. Their approach to their studies and clinical governance activities, the exceptional quality of their work, their collaborative spirit, and their enthusiasm for sharing and disseminating their findings have all been remarkably positive experiences.  So, really, the challenge of establishing the course was met with remarkable success, thanks to our own support network and our amazing RVN students.  

What has most helped and motivated you along the way?

Our CertAVN students motivate me every day. Their dedication, commitment and enthusiastic approach to their work and studies always impress me.  They are excellent role models and the work they do every day at work and during their studies is inspirational.

My small CertAVN team colleagues also motivate me every day.  We were delighted to receive a 2023 Quality Improvement Champion award at this year’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Knowledge Awards. Being commended for how we incorporated quality improvement into our CertAVN, we were excited to receive the award because we worked so hard to make it a rewarding and inspiring course.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or that you would give to someone else, about driving positive change?

Last year, I undertook the Aurora Leadership Programme which aims to encourage women working in academic and professional roles in Higher Education to gain confidence in leadership.  

The most helpful advice I was given consistently during the programme emphasised not being afraid to develop your own style and to work in alignment with your own values. I think having a deep understanding of your values, as well as having an appreciation of others’ values, can be incredibly helpful in building a nurturing, collaborative, and supportive community, wherever or whatever your work is.  

What are your next steps to continue creating change for the better?

In my new role as Director of Veterinary Nursing at the RVC, together with my colleague, Hilary Orpet (recently appointed as Deputy Director of Veterinary Nursing), we aim to expand training and professional progression opportunities for veterinary nurses from different qualification routes and diverse clinical backgrounds.   

We both feel very positive about the future of veterinary nursing at the RVC.  We’re at a critical time in the growth and development of our profession and Hilary and I are eager to contribute to shaping a bright future for it.  We have various projects on the go and can’t wait to share these with our RVC colleagues and with the wider veterinary profession…watch this space!

If you’re an RVN or know an RVN interested in gaining a post registration qualification with the RVC, find out more about our Certificates in Advanced Veterinary Nursing: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/certificates-in-advanced-veterinary-nursing

We’ve also found the RVCS Knowledge website a really useful resource with lots of guidance when it comes to all things quality improvement and evidenced-based practice: https://knowledge.rcvs.org.uk/home/.

Our thanks to Perdi for sharing her inspiring story of how she is championing change. If you would like to nominate a Champion for Change or share your story, please let us know.

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