This Code sets out the professional standards the public, the profession and VCNZ expect veterinarians to meet and to be measured against.
The work of veterinarians can take many forms. Their roles and responsibilities, whether in clinical or non-clinical practice, extend beyond individual patients and clients to include food safety, public health and biosecurity, among other things. The principles of this Code are intended to be broad enough to set the expectations of veterinarians in any area of veterinary practice.
The Veterinarians Act 2005 restricts the right to practise as a veterinarian in New Zealand to those who are appropriately qualified, are registered with VCNZ and hold a current practising certificate. The rights conferred by veterinary registration go hand in hand with legal and professional responsibilities and are placed at risk if these obligations are ignored or flouted.
Veterinarians must comply with all of the requirements in this Code irrespective of whether they are charging fees for the services provided. If veterinary services are provided for free (pro bono), this does not remove the veterinarian's obligations to meet the expectations set out in this Code.
Structure of the Code
The Code has been structured around seven fundamental principles that form the basis of the professional behaviour expected of veterinarians. The principles cover seven broad themes:
- Animal welfare
- Client relationships
- Professional relationships
- Professional integrity
- Veterinary services
- Veterinary medicines
- Legislative requirements
Supporting each principle is a series of statements which set out the specific expectations and a Glossary with definitions of some of the terms used in the Code.
More detail on the expectations, and how veterinarians can comply with them, is provided in comprehensive explanatory notes. These notes, and other identified resources also provide specific examples of the Code's application.
Legal status of this Code
The principles and responsibilities specified in this Code have been prescribed, by notice in the New Zealand Gazette, as minimum standards for practising as a veterinarian under Section 88 of the Veterinarians Act 2005.
All veterinarians must comply with the Code.
How this Code will be used
For those entering the profession, the Code identifies the fundamental principles of professional veterinary practice and serves as an educational tool.
For those within the profession the Code provides the basis for monitoring their own practice. The related online explanatory notes serve as an educational tool to guide veterinarians on meeting their professional obligations.
For those outside the profession the Code provides guidance for understanding the standards expected of veterinarians.
The Code will be used by VCNZ and its Committees as a standard by which to measure veterinarians’ professional conduct in the event of complaints and concerns being raised.
The minimum standards are identified in the Code and related explanatory notes by the use of the word ‘must’. The explanatory notes include additional advice and recommendations to encourage veterinarians to maintain, or aspire to, high standards of professional conduct. In this case the word ‘should’ is generally used.
The overarching expectation of the Code is that veterinarians will exercise sound professional judgment. The Code is not exhaustive. It is accepted that there is not necessarily one right decision in every set of circumstances and that the Code cannot define how every situation must be managed. VCNZ expects veterinarians to evaluate situations (whether in relation to a clinical matter or not), apply the principles of this Code and make competent and reasonable decisions about the most appropriate course of action taking into account the individual circumstances and the best potential outcomes.
Veterinarians are professionally accountable for their practice, which means being personally responsible for what they do or do not do. Veterinarians are encouraged to take advice from senior colleagues and managers, but when faced with conflicting responsibilities they must exercise their own professional judgment in deciding on the appropriate course of action and use this Code as a basis for making that decision.
Revision of the Code
This Code is based on VCNZ’s interpretation of the professional conduct standards that the public and the profession expect all veterinarians to meet. It may need to be reviewed in the light of any changes to these expectations or any significant issues arising from its implementation. It is reviewed by VCNZ regularly.