Spotlight on: wellbeing

Published on

A woman is in a yoga pose with a small dog by her side

Wellbeing: the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.

Wellbeing is an important part of life, and we have seen people come together to offer support and guidance in what has been a very difficult year. The School of Veterinary Science promotes wellbeing at all times but here we highlight how this has been particularly important during 2020.

At Liverpool, wellbeing is delivered within the veterinary science curriculum and, as well as sessions on resilience, staff members share their own experiences and struggles with mental health. In these Mental Health and Me sessions, they discuss how they have learned to cope and thrive in their careers.

Staff and students are also invited to attend Schwartz Rounds, a multidisciplinary, structured forum which originated in the US following a legacy for the establishment of the Schwartz Centre in Boston by Ken Schwartz. A health attorney, Ken was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, but said that simple acts of kindness from his caregivers were what mattered to him most as a patient.

During Schwartz Rounds staff and students come together to discuss the difficult social aspects of veterinary medicine. Past topics have included the fear of making mistakes, imposter syndrome and diversity in the veterinary profession. Recently, and in response to the current pandemic, a Schwartz Round was held entitled The Last Time the S*&% Hit the Fan - the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak of 2001. We’d like to thank the members of Liverpool Alumni that contributed to this Schwartz Round to discuss the impact that the Foot and Mouth outbreak had on their undergraduate education.

All students are assigned a member of staff as an academic tutor, and senior tutors provide additional pastoral support including drop-in sessions. This support is extended through the peer support scheme. The peer support team are veterinary students in years 2 to 5 who receive mental health and wellbeing training. Established in 2009, they offer a confidential service for any vet student to come and talk to a member of the team individually for advice, or to chat over any worries they may have. No issue is too big or too small to reach out to a peer supporter. In addition to this, the peer supporters run events to help students unwind and build a more positive mindset. This has included talks and workshops on time management, tools to cope with stress, and overcoming perfectionism.

Rebekah Brydon, one of the current peer supporters shares her own experiences with us: “I now feel more confident in helping friends when they need someone to talk to. We have been taught how to phrase things in a way that helps create a space where people are comfortable to share what they need to. I’ve also found that I'm using what I’ve learnt in every day conversations, and so these skills will be useful outside vet school too. We’re also taught how to recognise our own boundaries, which means we are able to protect ourselves from burnout. And of course, it's amazing to do all of this as part of a team who can help you if you aren't sure how to handle a situation and support you throughout.”

Many alumni will be familiar with the buddy system whereby Liverpool University Veterinary Society (LUVS) matches each new first-year student with another student to act as a buddy. This year the LUVS Committee have revamped the Buddy System and are trialling a Buddy Family system: a student from each year will be put together to form “families” of students. We’re excited to see how this trial goes, and the potential integration of alumni into these families in the future.