Robyn Lowe – the first RVN to join the Vetlife Board looks back on her time as a trustee
A veterinary friend of mine once said I needed to challenge myself, at the time I told her “no”. I had no time, I would do it another time, I’m too slow for a marathon, too unfit to try. When she passed away, I knew that I wanted to give back to the community what she gave to me – friendship, advice, support.
Looking back on the years since her death I realise how many times she would have smiled at the challenges and opportunities I am saying “yes” to. Vetlife helped her considerably, and it continues to help thousands of our community – the profession’s charity.
One of the things I never expected was to be sitting as the first RVN on the Board of Trustees for Vetlife, something I think represents a far wider reaching and profound message of inclusivity of our fellow veterinary team in necessary mental health support.
Prior to joining the board, I started fundraising for Vetlife which escalated to setting up the Veterinary Voices Hiking Group. The Hiking Group was set up with a number of things in mind, and you might be surprised to know it wasn’t just the walking that drew me and co-founder Paul Horwood (another trustee of Vetlife) to the idea.
Last year I asked Veterinary Voices UK (closed discussion group) if they ever felt lonely – 72% said yes. Of this 72%, 52.5% were lonely occasionally and 39.5% regularly. It might come as a surprise to you that veterinary professionals feel lonely – after all our jobs mean we are often in company.
The driving force for the hiking group was connecting, friendships, mentorship and support. It was a community, the linking of people who could break that cycle of loneliness to get out into our beautiful countryside, to walk and talk, to know that they are not alone. Even after a day of veterinary work with a huge team, having met many clients, farmers and animal owners there may be those who go home feeling lonely. It has been one of the most incredible groups for this, already raising thousands of pounds for Vetlife while seeing our profession ‘walk and talk’.
Joining the Board of Trustees
When the opportunity to join the Vetlife Board arose, and admittedly with very little time, I put in an application.
I didn’t know if I possessed the qualities that were necessary for this position; looking at the current board of trustees you can see why I had my doubts – this is an incredible team of vets who all give immeasurable amounts to the profession and who all have a wealth of experience to bring to the table. Despite this, the board welcomed me warmly and appreciate any insight I have – I would encourage any vets or RVNs wanting to join the Vetlife Board of Trustees or who want to get more involved in Vetlife in any capacity to give it a go – from the awe-inspiring volunteers to the President of Vetlife – everyone is kind, helpful, supportive and welcoming.
What it has been like so far
The experience has been both fantastic and humbling – being a trustee gives you first-hand experience and insight into the work, dedication and compassion it takes to run a veterinary charity such a Vetlife.
The calls, the emails, the meetings, the statistics, the need for the Helpline, Health Support and Financial Support services. It makes me both incredibly proud that our profession can reach out for help 24/7 if they ever need it and even more motivated to continue to advocate for the charity and the need for predictable income so it can continue to meet the ever-rising demand.
Services need to carry on
We are seeing an unprecedented demand for all the charity’s services, but most notable is the rise in applications by veterinary professionals for Financial Support during 2022 to more than triple that of the previous year. Calls to the Helpline, which provides assistance for vets, nurses, students and non-clinical staff, were also up by 3.3% to 3,503, while Health Support referrals rose by more than 15%.
Can you consider helping us?
One of the jobs of a trustee is to ensure the financial viability of the charity, and sitting on the board allows insight into how much money it takes to support our profession.
Something I know is that regular, predictable income is massively important. As well as other generous donations, fundraising and sponsorship from companies – something that you can do on an individual basis is to become a ‘Friend of Vetlife’.
Whatever you do, whether it be supporting a team member or colleague, signposting to Vetlife, helping out a friend in need, fundraising or raising awareness of the charity, or even if you want to take the jump to become a trustee – every action can create incredible impact.