DBSH − there’s still time for you to shape the College’s response

All members and trainees are reminded there is still time for solutions and proposals to be offered to the Discrimination, Bullying and Sexual Harassment (DBSH) Working Group set up to tackle unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.

Last month the College released the findings of a member survey which identified that bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment are distressingly common in the emergency care environment in Australia and New Zealand.

The DBSH Working Group is currently consulting with members and trainees to prepare and publish a draft Action Plan by the end of November that addresses the survey findings.

This consultation ends on Tuesday, 5 September 2017.

How to have your say

You can give your feedback via an anonymous form on the ACEM Website.

Alternatively, you can email your feedback to Ange Wadsworth (DBSH Policy Officer) at [email protected]. In your email, please number your responses to the questions using the numbering in the consultation paper.

All feedback will be treated confidentially. If you have any questions, please email Ange Wadsworth.

DBSH Working Group Co-Chairs Associate Professor Sally McCarthy and Dr Simon Judkins said: “We thank those who have taken the time to provide input into this important piece of work, and encourage more ideas on how the College can tackle bullying and harassment.”

Creating a better workplace culture

ACEM trainee Dr Jessica Forbes, who is on the DBSH Working Group, urged all members, especially trainees, to have their say.

“This feedback will help the College to contribute towards creating a better workplace culture,” Dr Forbes said.

“The survey identified that the group most affected by DBSH behaviours are trainees, so the work we need to do will focus on improving the training experience, so that we can get the most out of the training program.”

Dr Forbes said there was also a patient safety issue to consider.

“When doctors disrespect those working around them, the patients are the ones who ultimately suffer. If a trainee is frequently being bullied and belittled, it becomes difficult to fulfil your potential, which directly impacts on patient care.”


Dr Mya Cubitt said there were several reasons why she put up her hand to be part of the DBSH Working Group.

“Like many who answered the survey, I have had my own experiences through training and my early FACEM career that have disappointed me,” Dr Cubitt said. “It’s my responsibility to be curious about how these situations arise and why well-intentioned people can continue to exist in what appears to be an unfriendly environment for many. I want to gain skills and learn how to make cultural change.”

Dr Cubitt said the DBSH survey was an important process for the College to go through.

“We have a responsibility to trainees, FACEMs − and ourselves, to create an environment where having these conversations is accepted and encouraged. Being accountable for our behaviours and unconscious bias and the effects these are having on people is more important than anything else we do,” Dr Cubitt said.

Asked what she hoped to be the major change to flow from this process, Dr Cubitt said: “Committing to change, starting the conversations and raising awareness are the most important first steps.

“Enacting change will be a longer process with some hard work involved. But in an environment where trainees and consultants feel safe, included and valued − imagine the innovation and medical excellence that we might achieve.”

‘We need to change the system’

Dr Andrew Tagg, another member of the DBSH Working Group, recently wrote a powerful piece on paediatric blog Don't Forget the Bubbles, saying there was a need to change the system, “the way we treat each other, if we want to really make a difference with regard to physician mental health”.

“I am sure the College will advocate for cultural change with the view that any reduction in DBSH behaviours will reduce the risk of mental health disorders amongst FACEMs and trainees alike,” he wrote.