October 16th, 2023

The Menopause Series: Breaking Taboos and Sharing Stories

Welcome to the Menopause Series: Breaking Taboos and Sharing Stories, a 5-part bitesize series brought to you by The Webinar Vet. Our goal is to support veterinary professionals during menopause, a pivotal yet often overlooked career phase. With the majority of the veterinary workforce being female, addressing menopausal challenges is essential. About a third of the UK's female population experiences menopause, and one in ten women leave work due to it. Today marks the first of our menopause awareness podcast celebrations, and we're delighted to be joined by two remarkable guests, Charlotte Pace and Lindsay Hughes, who will share their thoughts and experiences around creating inclusive workplaces.

Getting to Know Our Guests

Charlotte Pace: I qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2003, and I have since been dedicated to cardiology at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals. I became the first person outside the US to pass the Veterinary Technician Specialist in Cardiology exam in 2010. I've been actively teaching and writing about cardiology within the veterinary world and currently serve as BVNA Senior Vice President.

Lindsay Hughes: My veterinary journey began in 2002, and I obtained my veterinary nursing qualification in 2012. Currently, I'm one of the small animal directors of a busy hospital in Wiltshire. My role involves streamlining processes, supporting staff development, and ensuring best practices. I'm also the only nurse within the directorship and am passionate about improving inclusivity in our workplace.

Before we dive into our discussion, we'd like to express our gratitude to our guests for taking the time to join us in this important conversation. Now, let's begin.

Why Is It Important to Raise Awareness About the Menopause?

Charlotte Pace: Raising awareness about menopause is crucial because a 2019 study by CIPD found that three out of five women felt that menopause affects their working life. In a female-dominated profession like veterinary care, acknowledging these challenges is vital. While menopause isn't a protected characteristic, it significantly impacts many people's lives. Everyone experiences it differently, so discussing it openly is essential.

Lindsay Hughes: I agree with Charlotte. In our predominantly female-led industry, we need to raise awareness to provide support and ensure our team members understand the symptoms and how they can affect colleagues. We recently conducted menopause training at our practice, and it even surprised some of the younger members of our leadership team who were in their early twenties. They were completely unaware of how it could impact individuals.

Initiatives and Progress in the Veterinary Profession

In recent years, several veterinary associations and practices have started initiatives to support menopause awareness. The British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are working on a project called VN Futures, with a subset group focused on diversity, inclusivity, and widening participation. This year, they've created a menopause toolkit, available for free, which includes panel discussions, blogs, interviews, and valuable resources.

Creating Supportive Environments in Practice

Lindsay highlights the importance of supportive environments and how making small changes can significantly impact staff well-being. Simple actions like providing sanitary products, deodorants, and spare uniforms in workplace bathrooms can make a big difference. A workplace mentor system can also help staff members find someone to talk to about their concerns.

The Role of Open Communication

Both Charlotte and Lindsay emphasize the necessity of open communication within veterinary teams. It's essential to have conversations, start from existing templates or resources, and adapt them to your practice's needs. Reviews and updates are necessary to keep the policy relevant. Building a culture of open communication and understanding within the practice is crucial for success.

The Future: Looking Ahead

Looking forward, both Charlotte and Lindsay hope to see a significant change in the perception of menopause in the veterinary profession. They aim to eradicate the stigma and shame associated with menopause and normalize discussions about it. Achieving this might require legislative support to make menopause a protected characteristic. The ultimate goal is that when the question is asked again, 100% of people will feel supported within the workplace.

The journey towards creating inclusive and supportive workplaces for those experiencing menopause continues, and it starts with conversations, understanding, and small changes. Open dialogue about menopause is a crucial step towards improving the well-being of veterinary professionals and making the profession more inclusive.

If you want to access the menopause toolkit mentioned in this podcast or other resources related to the menopause, you can find them on the BVNA website. It's time to break the taboos and share stories, and together, we can make a positive change for menopausal veterinary professionals.

Have you discussed menopause awareness in your workplace? What changes do you think are necessary to create a more inclusive environment for menopausal colleagues? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

You can listen to the full podcast episode featuring Kathryn Bell, CEO of The Webinar Vet, on The Webinar Vet. Don't forget to subscribe and stay tuned for the rest of "The Menopause Series."

Beyond the Clinic: Menopause Exposed

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