Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Vicki Nicholls talks about a day judging at the Petplan Veterinary Awards

Wow. What a day. Fresh from the Petplan Veterinary Awards Judging with a warm glow about the profession. Days like today make me even more thankful that I am a vet and able to celebrate this remarkable profession that we are part of.

The experience was stratospherically at odds with my pre-conceived expectations however.  I stupidly assumed this was another Presidential meeting to be squeezed into my hectic calendar with the usual challenges of childcare scheduling, made all the more difficult by the unfortunate clash with half term. One child and a dog happily left with grandparents 200 miles away and the other child safely ensconced in childcare (plus trusty trainers in my bag to dash from the train) and I was ready to “do my duty”.
It was certainly worth it.
I'll admit I was slightly perplexed by the judging system but having dutifully read and ranked each of the nominations in my category I felt as prepared as possible. Now I'm a prescriptive kind of person -I like tasks with recipe- like instructions. But you have to break some eggs to make an omelette (a delicious one at lunch thanks Petplan!) right? This is veterinary judging like no other…more “X Factor Judges Houses” than “Strictly Come Dancing”. There are no set criteria, no prescriptive guidelines, no previous examples and no benchmarks to follow. This was about finding something in the nomination that really stood out. Not that difficult I hear you mutter. BUT, and this is a very big BUT...clients appreciate gestures and words that we take as completely normal in this amazing profession and nominate their vets/practices/VNs accordingly. Knowing a pets name and greeting them with a smile and warm welcome may seem a normal part of your working day but Little things really DO count. One small gesture to us can really make a different to an owner...and a thoughtful nomination for the Petplan Veterinary Awards. The net result? Over 22,000 nominations this year to sift through and pick winners for each category. I suddenly realised that kindness and compassion is often taken for granted, but what a lovely way to recognise it. I'm already planning my nominations for next year and wishing I had thought to recognise colleagues in previous years.

I digress, so armed with my list of short-listed nominations (again I was amazed that Petplan employs an independent company to sort each nomination into category and short list so they have no input into the judging) I sat down with my two co-judges to discuss our group.  No specific assessment criteria plus a panel of scientifically minded people equals a bit of head scratching where to start but we were soon underway with enthusiasm and due diligence. Thankfully we had been well briefed to judge only on the nomination statements and each judging panel was comprised of at least one Veterinary association President and a past winner of that category which helped enormously.  Relief soon flowed around the table when we realised that something about our category winners had obviously struck a chord as our choices were unanimous. Again we took a vow of secrecy and were strictly reminded not to divulge our choices to even the Petplan organisers.

Being a vet gives me a great sense of community - I am part of one big and very special family. I am constantly astounded by the kindness, generosity, care, compassion and support within the veterinary population. Whatever your role within the veterinary team, there is no one defining criteria nor job description that recapitulates “what you do”. Every day is different and although the challenges are widespread, today reminded me of how extraordinary the individuals are within our profession. The generosity of spirit, the camaraderie and support, and the inspirational stories within the nomination packs exemplifies the very best of the veterinary profession. Today I was prouder than ever to be part of it. There seems to be a tide of apathy in the profession, a disgruntlement with the changing face of the "James Herriott" era. But the core of the profession hasn't changed and the foundations are built on kindness and compassion. Do something amazing for your profession and nominate someone for next year.

And the winner of my category shall have to wait until April 5th 2018 like the rest of us!