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Provider tackles entrenched cultural problems in health sector

Health professionals consistently list bullying, discrimination and harassment as key issues within the workplace. Now, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health and aged care provider plans to tackle the problem head-on.

St Vincent’s Health Australia is partnering with the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University to assess its approach to addressing entrenched cultural problems in the health sector.

Using a National Health and Medical Research Council partnership grant of $1.2 million, the team will evaluate the provider’s Ethos program, which aims to foster safe, respectful and professional behaviour, and provide a consistent, transparent and equitable way to address any staff conduct that undermines patient or staff well-being.

First introduced at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne in July this year, the program is currently being rolled out across all of the provider's Australian hospitals.

Dr Victoria Atkinson, chief medical officer and group general manager of clinical governance at St Vincent’s Health, said the evaluation will explore staff behaviour and patient experience.

“It’s well known that bullying, discrimination and harassment are significant problems in Australia’s healthcare sector and St Vincent’s Health is not immune,” Atkinson said. “Sometimes staff may feel ill-equipped or unable to speak up when they witness or experience disrespectful behaviour. They might feel that if they report the problem, it won’t be addressed; or perhaps they’re afraid of repercussions. Or maybe it’s just because – in the unit or department they work – there’s an acceptance that inappropriate behaviour is somehow ‘normal’.”

Atkinson said Ethos has been designed to overcome these barriers and contribute to making staff and patients feel welcome, valued and safe.

The Ethos program includes:

  • an accountability pathway that outlines a consistent, transparent and equitable way to provide feedback to staff about their behaviour
  • a reporting tool for either negative behaviour that undermines staff or patient safety or positive behaviour. Reports can be submitted by any staff member using an online tool which is private and confidential, and
  • a package of capability building and training to equip leaders and staff with the skills to role model safe and respectful behaviour.

Nursing Review spoke with Atkinson about Ethos and the changes it has brought about for the organisation so far.

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One comment

  1. Bring this to the country, NOW!!!

    Address lack of understanding and leadership

    Bring in fair, compassionate strong work ethics

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