VetLed HALT Campaign: Why this is so important for our Veterinary community

Ensure your own mask is fitted before helping anybody else…

The VetLed HALT Campaign encourages you to focus on your physical and mental wellbeing. This is not only better for your health but enables you to function at your best so that you can offer more to your colleagues and patients.

Balancing individual needs with that of your patients, customers, colleagues and business isn’t always easy. However, we believe taking actions to ensure that you are physically and mentally well isn’t merely a nice-to-have but should be the foundation upon which patient care is built. During the safety demonstration on an aircraft, we are told to secure our own oxygen mask before helping people around us. The same principle of self-care applies to Veterinary professionals as our ability to help others is severely limited if our wellbeing is compromised.

Whilst it might seem like common sense to look after ourselves, the reality of the human condition is that we don’t always do what we know we should. Whilst we might ‘know’ the importance of addressing HALT, the instinctive need to achieve the current goal beats the logical intention to stay hydrated, to take a break or to take time to address sources of stress. Life in 2018, where everything is instantly available at the push of a button or the swipe of a touchscreen, exacerbates the tendency for our behaviour to seek out an immediate return. Combine this with social pressure, such as in the instance that other team members (especially leaders/managers) aren’t seen to take their breaks, and this is when ‘pushing on regardless’ then becomes the cultural norm. One of our main goals for this campaign is to raise awareness of some basic concepts and suggest tools that can help remind us of things we might already ‘know’ but don’t always do.

In summary, the benefits of improved physical and mental wellbeing…

For you – rest, nutrition, hydration and emotional considerations are vital for wellbeing and will leave you healthier, calmer, more alert and more energised For your patients – by prioritising your physical and mental state you improve your ability to perform and make decisions, therefore reducing the likelihood of error

For your colleagues and clients – if you are Hungry, Angry, Late or Tired you are likely to be less productive, and interactions with colleagues and clients can be more difficult

In their HALT Campaign, Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust recommend trying not to work for more than 5 hours without a 20 minute break. Every organisation is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’, but it’s starts with a simple question; what is achievable for you and your team in practice? How can you work together to ensure that breaks are taken fairly and safely? A break or even a short pause gives us an opportunity to ‘check-in’ with ourselves and notice how we are feeling and what might be affecting us. Our HALT campaign is raising awareness and creating a common language surrounding the key aspects of physical and mental wellbeing. Noticing our own signs and having a raised awareness isn’t necessarily a complete solution but it has to be the start, from which point we can build a culture supportive of wellbeing and self-care together.

Look out for further blog posts on HALT and wellbeing, to include:

- Steps you can take to improve wellbeing for yourself and the whole team

- Leadership and leaders roles in cultivating a culture of wellbeing

- Further information and research supporting HALT