ONCORE wins place at Innovation Symposium

For her achievements with her work with ONCORE, Veterinary Nurse Jill Macdonald was awarded a place at the RCVS’s inaugural Innovation Symposium.  The event, run by the RCVS in order to promote one of the aims of Vet Futures in encouraging and supporting innovation in the profession, was held at the Shard, London.

Recognised for learning and teaching approach

I think this is it? The Shard

‘I think this is it?’ The Shard

I was absolutely delighted to be awarded a place at the symposium. I entered the social media #VNinnovation competition via facebook, but never expected to be chosen as one of the winners! ONCORE work constantly to improve the online learning experience for our learners and respond to their feedback – but it wasn’t just about the digital aspects as we were also recognised for our learning and teaching approach involving empowering learners, offering practical outcomes, and encouraging collaboration and reflective practice.

The Shard didn’t disappoint

I’d wanted to go to the Shard ever since I watched the documentary about its construction, so I was smug as a bug when I realised that’s where the event wouldbe held. It didn’t disappoint – whilst the interior could I suppose be anywhere – the entire facade is glass – floor to ceiling, so the amazing vista is constantly in view. Sadly the other half wasn’t invited and had the delightful role of dropping me off at the local train station at 6.30 am instead.

Fellow VN winners

I also felt very proud to stand alongside two of my favourite VN colleague winners – Jane Davidson (Jane RVN – serial blogger and social media guru) and Jo Hinde (Lagolearn and crazy rabbit lady) and it was fantastic to catch up with them on the day  and celebrate our hard work and achievements. When you work alone, as we often do, that recognition doesn’t happen very often. It was lovely too, to meet up with the many people that I email or Skype, but never get to see face-to-face. All too often technology supersedes real social interaction in the lives we lead now!

Diverse topics

There  were some really great speakers on the day, and the diversity in the topics covered was remarkable. It was really inspiring (and a little mind-blowing) to try and take in so much information, about so many new technologies, ideas and theories. The world is evolving so fast – and how will we keep up? Will machines replace us? Well yes, probably, but as one speaker said, we shouldn’t look at working out how to make machines think like humans, as they won’t – but they will take over many of our roles, and they will achieve it in a different way to us. As Adam Little, vet and entrepreneur from Texas A&M University said, there is more change ahead in the next decade than we have seen in the previous 50 years.

Practical technologies

A couple of the technologies that I could really see being in practice over the next few years were Babylon and Felcana, so I thought I’d just briefly share those with you.

Have you heard of Babylon? It’s a system that brings together ‘hand-picked’ doctors with patients, providing telemedicine via smartphone. It also takes this a step further and offers patients long term support and monitoring too. Now consider how this might work in veterinary medicine, and the possibilities are endless. Compliance is a big interest of mine, and having your clients at the end of a smartphone, being able to remind them when to give the cats his insulin, or asking how the dog’s diet and exercise regime is going, could have a massive impact on achieving that compliance. You can find out more about Babylon here: https://www.babylonhealth.com/how-it-works

Felcana is a technology that I have no doubt you will hear more of over the coming months. It’s a health monitoring device for pets and can monitor activity, sleeping, eating and drinking. This could be such a useful tool for real monitoring of our patients, especially when owners are out at work in the day for example. You can find out more about Felcana here: https://felcana.com/

Also, you’ve probably already heard of Pawsquad, who provide veterinary home visits – and this is an area of practice that I imagine we will see more of over the coming years too. You can see what they do here: https://www.pawsquad.com/

VNs will be effective at exploiting technologies

It was great to see my fellow VNs there, but apart from us and upcoming BVNA president Wendy Nevins, VNs were a little thin on the ground. That is such a shame, because VNs have such a role to play too. Throughout the day we were using a smartphone voting system and a question towards the end was about how effective the audience felt vets and VNs will be at exploiting technology in the future. VNs won the vote! I mean – come on – Vet Nurse versus Vettest machine – human one:Vettest nil. (I am showing my age here – most of you have probably never heard of a Vettest!) But joking aside, I do think that VNs will embrace new technology and consider how they can use it to better patient care very effectively.

Towards the end of the day, Jackie Molyneux, vet and practice owner, spoke out about the focus on vets and technology, and pointed out that VNs play a fundamental role in the practice team and would be just as big a part of the movement. It was the only time during the day that spontaneous applause erupted following an audience member’s comment, and it was quite an emotional moment.

ViVet – a new network

Left to right: Jane Davidson, Jill Macdonald and Jo Hinde

Left to right – Jane Davidson, Jill Macdonald, Jo Hinde

The RCVS also unveiled ‘ViVet’ at the symposium – a network set up to support and encourage engagement within the profession. You can take a look at what they aim to achieve here. Their mission is to ‘enable creative veterinary solutions for the good of animal health and welfare’, and they provide online resources, blogs, case  studies and in-person support. Maybe you have an innovative idea that you’re not sure how to get off the ground? Visit http://www.vivet.org.uk/ where you will find resources, articles, newsletter sign-up, and where you can go to get more help and support.

Technology must make a difference to animal health and welfare

Someone commented in a tweet following the symposium, that it was skewed towards how innovation can influence the market rather than improving animal health and welfare, and this is a very valid point. Use of technology can become a little more about ‘what can we do’, and ‘how can we use it to create revenue’, rather than how we can use it to actually effect useful change, but I felt I could see the bigger picture in all that – that gathering of big data, monitoring for pets, using technology to bring people closer to their pets – can all have a positive influence on animal health and welfare. The words ‘moving towards predictive and preventative models’ filled me with excitement. I’m also a big believer that without revenue creation, the ideas that make change won’t fly. They need to be sustainable.

Using technology to bring people closer to their pets  can have a positive influence on animal health and welfare

And ONCORE? Well we’ve never been in the big money business. We just work hard to try help veterinary teams do the very best for their patients whether it be in mastering infection control, low stress handling or running senior clinics. It was fantastic to be recognised and rewarded for our efforts.

We have the best tutors in the world!

It was stated (quite rightly) at the symposium that ‘if you’re not hiring the best it’s not going to fly’. I tweeted ‘we’re small scale but have best tutors in the world!’, and it’s so true – so I’d also like to add a shout-out for all of our tutors. They do an amazing job of looking after the candidates on their courses, and approach every course with enthusiasm and care – even though they are all really busy people. So tutors – we couldn’t do it without you, and thank you so much for all of your hard work.

Floating cocktails on the 52nd floor

View from the 52nd floor of The Shard

View from the 52nd floor of The Shard

Following the event, Jane, Jo and I decided to take a trip up to the bar on the 52nd floor, following a tip-off from a fellow delegate. We were met by Jo’s husband Keith and then wowed by Jo’s cocktail that hovered in mid-air. Yes, really! (I’m a northerner, so plain old beer was on the menu for me.) The view was just amazing, and we were lucky enough to get a window seat looking out at Tower Bridge, watching the sun go down and the lights of London slowly twinkle into view. It’s a day and evening that I’ll never forget.


RCVS (2017) College announces winners of innovation social media competition. [Online] Available at: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/news/college-announces-winners-of-innovation-symposium-social-media/

RCVS (2017) Ambitious programme to encourage veterinary innovation launched. [Online] Available at: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/news/ambitious-programme-to-encourage-veterinary-innovation-launched/

ViVet homepage:  http://www.vivet.org.uk/

You can find out more about ViVet here, and also sign up to their newsletter.

Image credit: Header image: Visit London
Shard from the bottom: Jill Macdonald
The VN team: Jane Davidson
Shard from the 52nd floor: Jill Macdonald