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AVBC Members Agree to Consistent Definition and Approach to Handling Health Issues

Melbourne – 23 November 2022

Individual Australian state and territory jurisdictions and New Zealand have legislated pathways for dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse. However, these pathways are not easily understood, and practitioners often do not know when to disclose problems to their regulator and what will happen if they do.  In July 2020, AVBC resolved that an agreed approach be developed to handle mental health issues and substance dependence across all jurisdictions.

At AVBC’s November 2022 Council meeting, all members agreed to formulate the definition of “an impaired veterinary practitioner” in order to encourage harmonisation across multiple jurisdictions and help regulators consistently approach associated health issues. It will also help practitioners identify when they need to notify their regulator regarding problems they may be experiencing.

“An impaired veterinary registrant has a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition, or disorder that detrimentally affects, or is likely to detrimentally affect the registered person’s capacity to practise their profession.”

AVBC members also agreed to improve communications outward to their registrants regarding this new definition. They will work to improve access to resources, including communications, web resources, and CPD options that mitigate/prevent root causes of some impairment/mental health problems, (e.g., personal, leadership and management resources and education).

Sustainable Practice Committee (SPC) Chair Dr Zoe Lenard said, “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. Veterinary careers (like life) 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 regulators.

“We acknowledge that the legislation often bunches substance abuse and mental ill-health together. 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.”



AVBC encourages co-operation among the veterinary boards in Australia and New Zealand, standardisation, and quality assurance of veterinary services, accredits veterinary schools and courses leading to a degree in veterinary science or medicine, assesses the suitability for practice of persons with foreign veterinary qualifications, sets uniform criteria for recognition of qualifications for registration. Members include nine of the ten veterinary boards in Australia and New Zealand, the Australian Veterinary Association, and the New Zealand Veterinary Association.