“There were moments of feeling completely overwhelmed but my overriding memories are of the camaraderie.” Veterinary reflections on the pandemic
29 Jul 2021
How embracing health and wellbeing awareness campaigns in your veterinary workplace can positively impact your team and foster an open and supportive workplace culture.
You could be forgiven for feeling that every day nowadays is “National something day”. On the day of writing, it is in fact National Capuccino day. Sadly, I am not a huge fan of cappuccinos – National Spa Week however is a different kettle of fish…
Whilst the growing list of unrecognised National something-days are largely clever marketing hoaxes designed to lure people into talking about or purchases products, health awareness campaigns are a completely different story.
National health awareness days, weeks, and months shine a spotlight on important issues from breast cancer to mental health and stress. As well as raising awareness and understanding of these issues generally, they give an opportunity for conversations that might not otherwise occur.
Embracing health and wellbeing awareness campaigns in the veterinary workplace is a valuable way to encourage colleagues to think about their health and help foster a much-needed culture where we all feel able to talk about health issues openly.
International Stress Awareness Week (4-8 November) is a chance to learn how to recognise the signs of stress in ourselves and our colleagues, but also come together as a team to talk openly about the issues in our own workplaces – and most importantly, what strategies we can come up with to improve them.
Time To Talk Day (6 February) brings people together to break the silence around mental health, asking everyone to start a conversation around mental health in their workplace. The campaign has a variety of resources to help you do this.
More than simply the goals of the campaign itself, encouraging team members to get involved is a chance to realise and appreciate the variety of skills they possess. The usual hierarchy of the team is disrupted when we start baking – in fact there is often an inverse relationship between clinical seniority and culinary prowess (that’s my excuse for terrible baking skills anyway!).
Be it a bake sale, a creative noticeboard display or a TikTok video, this is a chance for a different range of talents to be celebrated. Coming together as a team in a non-clinical setting boosts morale and helps us get to know each other in new ways.
Over the past few months I have been working behind-the-scenes supporting the “Vet Your Breasts” campaign, focusing on raising awareness of breast cancer within the veterinary profession. As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, we ran a baking competition encouraging veterinary professionals to bake and share pink-themed bakes in their practices.
I am - by my own admission - a terrible baker, but I decorated some rich-tea biscuits like breasts and wrote a sign next to them asking every member of the team to promise to check themselves that evening.
I have never asked another woman if they have ever checked their breasts, but that day I did. It turned out the majority of us never had, until that night. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime – there are more than eight women in our practice. So maybe my terrible boob biscuits could save one of our lives.
It wasn’t just the biscuits that made that day in practice feel special. Working through lockdown has been stressful, and at times downright harrowing. Taking the time to have a conversation with a group of other veterinary women, supporting each other’s health, and expressing our care for each other left me feeling loved and supported by my colleagues in what has been a difficult few months.
Whether or not you have been touched by the health issue of the campaign or not, it is always a comfort to realise you are part of a workplace culture that support and care for each other.
So yes, it may feel like it’s always “National something week”, but amongst the whimsical national avocado days and world beard days, there are some really valuable health and wellbeing campaigns that you can embrace in your workplace, knowing you can really make a difference to our team and your workplace culture.
For a good list of well-recognised health awareness dates see the NHS calendar of national health and wellbeing campaigns.
That being said, I don’t think there’s anyone in your workplace that would complain if you were to embrace National Ice Cream Day (16 July) either.
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