Weight management workshop hits the target

ONCORE recently ran the first intake of their new workshop ‘Targeting Weight Management Clinics’ and tutor Jill Macdonald shares some thoughts and insights from the course.

“Pet obesity is on the increase, and my feeling is that as a profession, it is our responsibility to tackle this issue”

Weight management clinics have always been a passion of mine. Pet obesity is on the increase, and was recently cited as the number one welfare concern of over 60% of UK vets (sadly nurses weren’t asked, but I’m sure they’d agree). My feeling is that as a profession, it is our responsibility to tackle this issue – to not be shy and to take it by the horns, to help clients turn it around, and to try and kick the butt of this epidemic – with prevention being just as high on the agenda as assisting with weight loss.

Great level of commitment to weight clinics

So that’s why I wanted to set up the workshop – to help those nurses in practice who I know feel the same way as I do, to get their weight management clinics doing what they need them to.

The uptake for the course was great, demonstrating how much interest there is in being able to run this service successfully, and I was bowled over with the level of commitment, enthusiasm, drive and knowledge that they held between them. Everyone was really committed to doing the very best they could with their clinics, and that really shone through.

A lot to get through in 7 days!

We had so much to get through over the 7 day learning forum, so I spent a long time planning the workshop and working out how I could split up the topics, when I could present them, and what everyone might want to know and how we could get there. I was so glad I completed this planning as I felt it really did help everyone to achieve their goals.

Key areas, including a ‘cases’ section

We kicked off with a couple of lectures from yours truly, in which I opened up what I consider all the key areas to be. On the learning forums we had 5 main areas of discussion which were ‘Challenges’, ‘Structure of clinics’, Equipment and resources’, ‘Communication skills’ and ‘Cases’. In each of these topics, there really was so much material covered, including how to set up appointments, who should run the clinics, how to get a SOP together, what resources they’d need, how to work with the client to achieve compliance, how vital a team approach is, and many, many more topics! We just kept thinking of new things we wanted to talk about.

The cases section was really useful as it allowed participants to share those challenging cases from practice and get some input from others on the course, and we added this as we went along as it became clear that there were difficult cases out there, and with 18 weight clinics passionados on the scene, it was daft not to exploit this.

“Communication is a key resource”

The one that really surprised me was the communication skills forum. Now anyone that knows me knows that veterinary communication skills are one of my passions, a field I’ve worked in for some time, and also that I have lots of plans for the future that involve developing this fascinating clinical skill. So when I was writing material for the workshop, I just kept thinking about just how important, no VITAL communication skills are for these clinics – for all clinics, but these in particular.

“there’s a lot of opportunity for it all to go wrong and for the client to walk out in a huff clutching their Dentastix – to be seen 12 months later with a dog that’s 4 kg heavier.”

We are dealing with a potentially charged situation (the client may not agree that their pet is overweight for a start), the road ahead is going to be tough, there are other family members to think about, compliance is, well, imperative, and there’s a lot of opportunity for it all to go wrong and for the client to walk out in a huff clutching their Dentastix – to be seen 12 months later with a dog that’s 4 kg heavier.

I was delighted to find that the other nurses also shared my belief that sound communication can get us a long way – before we’ve done anything else, and I saw some exemplary examples of just how proficient nurses are at talking ‘with’ (not ‘to’) clients. I also introduced the topic of ‘Motivational Interviewing’ – which is set to take the veterinary profession by storm in my opinion. This technique in element is quite simple. Help the client find their motivation for doing something (in this case, get their pet to lose weight). Once you’ve found that, you’re halfway there!

“Nurses deserve to be remunerated for their knowledge and expertise”

Under ‘structure’ we also talked about charging for clinics – oh yes, another passion of mine. It saddens me so much to see nurses saying ‘my advice isn’t really worth much’ or ‘clients just wouldn’t come if we charged for the clinics’. I’m going to talk about charging for nurse services in another article so I’ll (try and) keep this short, but in my opinion, nurses are trained professionals; they have expertise and experience and they deserve to be remunerated for exactly the same reason as anyone else who charges for their time and knowledge.

“I’m confident that the seed is sown, and many of these nurses will go on to apply a fair and justified price structure to their clinics.”

I foresee a turnaround with this very aspect of veterinary practice – especially as (I was overjoyed to see) VN Futures backs this philosophy. Opinion was split on the workshop, and we didn’t have time to explore this fully, but I’m confident that the seed is sown, and many of these nurses will go on to apply a fair and justified price structure to their clinics.

“Some amazing resources out there”

The amount of resource out there for supporting clinics is astounding, and it was a great exercise for participants to source material, assess what was the ‘best’ resource, and then share this. When you have a group of people doing this, that resource list soon becomes really impressive, especially when you have such a dedicated group of people determined to hone in on the good stuff. ONCORE’s guidance on research also helps people to perform this effectively, and it’s important to have a grasp of how to ascertain what is credible material and what isn’t. (A lot isn’t, as we all know)

Practical outcomes

As for all of our courses, the workshop had some ‘outcomes’ – that practical stuff that you take away and use to actually make the learning happen in practice. Whilst there was no assessed coursework for the workshop, what we provided really helped to get nurses set up with practice plan, marketing flyer and maintenance handout chart templates all part of the materials.

Dedicated facebook group

At the end of the course a sensible person suggested that a facebook group for previous ONCORE nurse course clinic attendees was set up, so that they could continue to support each other – so voila – ‘Nurse Clinics Unwrapped’ was born. If you’ve been on one of our previous Nurse Clinics courses or workshops then please just ask to join.

Key messages

So as you can tell, I absolutely loved tutoring the course, however the only important aspect is what the nurse participants took from it, and you can read some testimonials that we received below.

So that’s my round up. Key messages? It’s our duty as a profession to tackle obesity, nurses (and vets) are in a perfect position to be weight management warriors, communication skills are one of the key resources in the toolkit, and a clear plan of approach involving the whole team is vital.

British Veterinary Association, 2016. Pet obesity epidemic is biggest welfare concern for vets. [online] Available at: < https://www.bva.co.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/newsroom/news-releases/pet-obesity-epidemic-is-top-welfare-concern-for-vets/>

Participant testimonials

“Fabulous course. Covered all aspects of running weight clinics and given me loads of ideas for improving them and making them more professional and effective. It was a good mix of taught information and thought provoking discussion. I have come away with the knowledge from my peers that I’m doing a lot of good work and tons of suggestions for making them even better. I’m going to come up with a plan to structure our clinics to include in-house publicity, charging structures and evaluation.”

Maria Murphy, Weight Management Clinics July 2017


“ONCORE On-line resources just get better and better. Module tutor/s – Excellent Great tutor. I really enjoy her style of teaching as it embraces all of the students opinions and encourages students to be able to express their thoughts and experiences with confidence.”

Carolyn Turrall, Weight Management Clinics July 2017


“This course has covered every topic that I could think of with regard to running Weight Clinics. It has been extremely comprehensive in its format. I have especially enjoyed learning about Motivational Interviewing and its application in practice.

Module materials – excellent – Very straight forward to use and well laid out. Module tutor/s – Excellent- Quick with replies and very supportive. Thank you. Once I’d gotten used to this type of learning, I found it a very beneficial educational tool.”

Kelly Pickrell, Weight Management Clinics, Jul 2017