Cultivating a Culture of Collaboration

This week, some of our VetLed team, have been attending a 'High Performing Teams' conference, organised by The Philosophical Breakfast Club (PBC). The PBC are a not-for-profit organisation bringing together researchers and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, to share their experiences, stimulate debate and collaborate to develop new solutions for healthcare. The name was inspired by a group of 17th Century scholars who regularly met over breakfast, with the aim to bring about a new scientific revolution. What is interesting about this group is not only their achievements but their diverse backgrounds. Tidal science, economics, computing and photography may not have been considered by many at the time to be connected, yet the collaboration between these masters of their respective fields enabled them to transform science and to help create the modern world.

The conference, whilst aimed at Healthcare professionals, has welcomed speakers from fields such as elite sport, sleep research, politics, psychology, military and the fire service. Their aim is to inspire collaborative learning, to challenge the status quo and to inspire positive change; something we, at VetLed, feel is vital in our quest to develop as a profession. As a vet, I have always been fascinated by the variety of methods that different teams and professions have developed to maximise their performance. I firmly believe that exploring different horizons and gathering varied insights is an asset, a great opportunity to learn and the basis of a growth mindset. Our growing VetLed team have varied backgrounds with their foundations based in veterinary medicine, elite sport, commercial aviation, psychology, healthcare training and business communications. The team came together as a result of our combined desire to collaborate across respective fields. We all share the mutual vision of improving wellbeing and performance across the veterinary community and by calling on all of our respective strengths and experiences, we are able to work more cohesively, innovatively and, much like the PBC, in a transformative way.

Improving veterinary patient safety is a big part of our VetLed mission. Research into error in veterinary practice published in 2015 (Oxtoby et al) concluded that “...there are many similarities between the veterinary profession and other safety critical industries.” Specifically, topics such as communication, leadership, ergonomics and cognitive limitation were linked to mistakes. With an understanding of these topics from various perspectives, both within and outside of veterinary practice, we recognised a need to be a part of a collaborative effort towards positive change. History shows us that teams and industries who welcome new methods and ideas have benefited greatly, seeing them as a complement to their skillset and not as a threat. I am really excited about the opportunity to combine our external insights with the knowledge from our veterinary experts so that we can apply our methodology in a way that will have sustained, far-reaching, and positive effects throughout our profession.

During the PBC conference, Chartered Psychologist and Chartered Ergonomist and Human Factors Specialist Steven Shorrock, referenced a quote from the book ‘The Abundant Community’ which brilliantly summarises why I feel so strongly about our collaborative and open-minded approaches to improving veterinary performance and culture; “The challenge is to keep expanding the limits of our hospitality. Our willingness to welcome strangers. This welcome is the sign of a community confident in itself. It has nothing to fear from the outsider. The outsider has gifts, insights and experiences to share for our benefit. The beautiful, remarkable sign of a secure community is that it has a welcome at the edge.” (McKnight & Block, 2010).

We passionately believe that positive culture, quality improvement, high performance and patient safety starts with a belief that embracing new ideas and change are a sign of strength. This is very much part of our VetLed vision; to create and champion positive veterinary culture for the amazing people that make up our profession, a community in which I am enormously proud to be part of.

1. Oxtoby C, et al. Vet Rec. 2015 Oct 31; 177(17): 438.

2. John McKnight & Peter Block. The Abundant Community. Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010.