AVS Peer Support Policy

The Association of Veterinary Students advocates the Peer Support Scheme as a welfare system to be implemented at all veterinary schools in the UK and Ireland.

This is in concurrence with recommendation number 12 of the recent Vet Futures Report to ‘deliverpeer support and/or mentoring in all UK vet schools and improve support for vets post graduation’ under the ambition to have a profession that is ‘confident, resilient, healthy and well supported’. This policy outlines what the Peer Support Scheme is, how it is beneficial to the welfare of students, and consequently the profession.

Peer Support is a system in which veterinary students are trained by professional counsellors to provide confidential support to their fellow students. The benefits of the Peer Support Scheme are that it provides a more ‘informal’ welfare approach than traditional counselling, which many students find more approachable. In this way many students are able to receive help who may feel that their problems are not ‘serious enough’ to warrant professional counselling. It also allows students access to immediate help for their concerns, where there may be delays in the availability of counselling, from people who are able to understand the stresses and troubles of vet students from first-hand experience. Peer Support is designed to be used in conjunction with existing welfare systems; members frequently refer students to the counselling services, by giving students the prompting and confidence to seek assistance.

As well as providing one-on-one advice to struggling students, Peer Support aims to induce cultural changes within the vet school community. For many students, the comfort of knowing that help is within easy reach is enough to create a more relaxed and healthier working environment, in which the students know that their colleagues are looking out for their best interests. Peer support also constantly promotes mental wellbeing in vet students, so works towards removing the stigma attached to mental health. It is hoped that in the future Peer Support will have a positive effect over the wellbeing of the veterinary profession as a whole, as peer support graduates will be able to utilise the skills learnt in their training with their future colleagues, as well as improving their professional conduct with clients.

Sufficient training is provided to Peer Supporters to ensure that they are competent and confident when dealing with any problems put before them. Post-training supervision is also required to allow supporters to develop their skills, and also allow any of their concerns to be discussed in a thoroughly confidential manner. Training is provided in how to actively listen to, comfort and support students, but also to know who to refer students to with serious problems, and how Peer Supporters can manage their own mental health, so keeping the pressures of the role to a minimum.

If you would like any further information about the Peer Support Scheme or the AVS policy please get in touch with the AVS Welfare Rep Abbie Dalton (welfarerep@gmail.com).