The Australasian Veterinary Boards Council (AVBC) will formulate a new definition for ‘an impaired veterinary practitioner’ to encourage a unified approach to mental health and substance abuse across all jurisdictions.

“It’s important to provide clarity to the profession about how veterinary standards are there to help them be the best vets that they can be,” said Dr Zoe Lenard, Sustainable Practice Committee (SPC) Chair.

Creating a benchmark will help all veterinarians and employers know what their responsibilities are, what resources are available to them and when it might be necessary to get in contact with regulators to help navigate mental health challenges. 

“Veterinary careers can be stressful, and veterinarians may suffer from physical or mental ill-health at any time. By being clear in the definition of impairment, we are encouraging the profession to seek assistance if they need it and not to fear their state or territory (or NZ) regulators,” said Dr Lenard.

At the moment, the definition of an impaired veterinary registrant is someone with a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition, or disorder that detrimentally affects, or is likely to detrimentally affect the registered person’s capacity to work as a veterinarian. 

“The broader definition of ‘impaired veterinary registrant’ gives clarity to the profession about when they need to seek help and we are encouraging the Boards to share resources and approaches to dealing with impairments, regardless of where the registrant lives,” says Dr Lenard. 

AVBC members include nine of the ten veterinary boards in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Australian Veterinary Association and the New Zealand Veterinary Association. The role of the AVBC is to encourage cooperation between the veterinary boards in Australia and New Zealand and, in this case, to standardise the approach to handling health issues and achieve consistency across Australia and New Zealand. 

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