An introduction to veterinary leadership

Wellbeing & Personal Development | 48 mins

Within the veterinary healthcare setting leadership is likely to be dynamic, ultra-adaptive, shared and situational. Leadership within this setting is not solely reserved for those in positions of responsibility. Each member of the team is required to feel prepared to ‘step up’ to lead in the moment, this may be in response to a patient requiring resuscitation or to ensure that tasks are assigned and completed.

Effective leadership has been shown to be crucial for maintaining safe performance in the workplace (Hofmann and Morgeson, 2004; Glendon et al., 2006). When researching the attributes of effective team leaders, NASA found that appropriate assertiveness, communication of task responsibilities and expected norms, involving all resources, establishing authority, modelling appropriate behaviour and balancing responsibility were all required within the role.

Leadership is recognised as an important non-technical skill which has been widely researched. Flin, O’Connor and Crighton, (2008) suggested that it can broken down into four skills elements; effective leaders should be able to use authority, when necessary, maintain standards, plan and prioritise, and manage workload and resources. In addition to NASA and Flin, O’Connor and Crighton’s research, it is recognized that many other attributes are required by leaders including excellent communication skills, empathy, compassion, kindness, self awareness, good situational awareness, humility and the ability to sustain emotional wellbeing.

The journey to becoming a confident leader may begin with exploring personal core values and comparing them to workplace core values to ensure that they are aligned, realising personal strengths and weaknesses, and considering the theories and styles of leadership. It is also important to develop understanding and practice vital skills which will ensure that all team members have the ability to lead with confidence.

Meet the speakers

Helen Silver-MacMahon

MSc PSCHF, Cert VNECC, DipAVN (surg), Cert SAN, RVN

Helen qualified as an RVN in 2000 and has worked in both first opinion and referral hospitals. Since qualifying, she has gained certificates in ECC and Small Animal Nutrition and the Advanced Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (surgical).  In 2021, Helen completed a MSc in Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors at the University of Edinburgh and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Lincoln exploring the non-technical skills that veterinary nurses require when monitoring and maintaining anaesthesia. She is also working towards chartered ergonomist status. Helen is an RCVS Knowledge Champion for her role in the sustained training and use of a surgical safety checklist within the small animal theatre at the former Animal Health Trust. Helen is passionate about developing the veterinary profession's understanding of Human Factors as a powerful aid in improving patient safety, enhancing performance, and supporting the wellbeing of the veterinary team. She enjoys lecturing internationally and has written articles and co-authored several book chapters on both clinical and non-clinical aspects practice. Helen is also collaborating with the University of Aberdeen to research Incivility in veterinary practice.

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