Psychology, Psychology in the world

Veterinary science and health psychology

Dr Jenny Lynden is a Staff Tutor in the School of Psychology and Counselling. She describes a seminar for veterinary students that drew on psychology and neuroscience to understand wellbeing in a veterinary context.

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On Saturday 23rd November Open University Staff Tutor, Dr Jenny Lynden, co-facilitated a day-long online seminar for over 50 vet students from schools across the UK and Ireland.  The seminar was sponsored by RCVS Mind Matters and led by Jenny Moffett, a vet, wellbeing specialist and Managing Director of SkillsTree. Together with Ru Clements,  also a vet wellbeing specialist and Head of People and Performance at VetLed, the team presented sessions on ‘Resilience and the veterinary rollercoaster’, ‘Wellbeing & why other people matter’, ‘Smartphones and how they impact on our wellbeing’ and ‘Why we need sleep and how to get it!’.  Each session explored the evidence-base from psychology and neuroscience to understand the influences which contribute to wellbeing in a veterinary context.

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Taking this approach, Jenny M. presented a model for resilience which focused on how negative experiences (e.g. stress, conflict, time/energy demands) may be in or out of balance with positive experiences (e.g. psychosocial support, healthy activities, mentorship).  Research suggests these interact with personality traits in complex ways, but when in balance are likely to lead to more coping strategies.  Jenny M. also explored the role of online connectivity and social media both in terms of its benefits (providing social support) and its risks (e.g. sleep deprivation, negative impact on cognitive task performance, and increasing negative social comparison with others).   Ru focused on the importance of social support for wellbeing and explored some of the research which has highlighted its benefits in fostering our sense of belonging, self-worth and emotional support, as well as physical wellbeing.  Jenny L. explored the physiology of sleep and the benefits of REM and NREM sleep, including some fascinating studies which demonstrate the importance of both types of sleep for supporting emotional ‘regulation’, creativity and problem-solving as well as fact-based and motor-skill memory.  Jenny L. then focused on the factors which can inhibit sleep, including the impact of shift-working, and employer non-compliance with the European Working Time Directive.

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The afternoon sessions involved students working in small groups to brainstorm ideas around the morning topics, which could inspire culture change in their schools/colleges.  Jenny L. said, “It’s such a privilege to work with vet students and my colleagues in this online seminar, the second event of its kind.  It’s great to have the opportunity to discuss the evidence-base in psychology and how it can help us to make changes in our everyday lives to promote our wellbeing.   I enjoy learning so much from the vet students about what inspires them and how they support each other to promote their wellbeing during their training.  Thank you everyone for taking part!  We’re looking forward to next year’s event!”

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RCVS Mind Matterswas set up to improve the mental health and wellbeing of vet students, nurses and surgeons, as well as practice manages by providing a wide range of resources, such as seminars and conferences, as well as access to a 24/7 helpline.

SkillsTreeoffers bespoke, online personal and professional development for doctors, vets, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

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