The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) will immediately move to address the findings of a recent member survey identifying unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.

“The College is committed to its role of upholding the highest possible professional standards in emergency medicine,” said ACEM President Professor Tony Lawler. “We have taken the initiative to understand the extent of these behaviours among members and trainees. The survey identified that bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment are distressingly common in the emergency care environment in Australia and New Zealand.

“We owe a duty to our members, Fellows and trainees to do what we can to ensure emergency medicine is practised in a respectful and inclusive environment, and will use this experience to listen to and engage with our members to bring about meaningful cultural change and address the problems caused by some members of our profession.

“As health care workers on the frontline and directly in the public eye, emergency physicians need to take a leadership position and champion and model the high standards of behaviour we expect of others.”

The College will consult with members to prepare and publish an Action Plan by the end of November that addresses the survey findings.

The survey found that:

  • Thirty-four per cent of people surveyed said they had experienced bullying;
  • 21.7% experienced discrimination;
  • 16.1% experienced harassment, and
  • 6.2% experienced sexual harassment.

“ACEM seeks to promote the highest possible professional standards for emergency physicians. These principles are explicit in College policy and standards for accreditation for training in emergency medicine. These findings are not consistent with whom we believe ourselves to be, and we must respond to that,” Professor Lawler said.

“The behaviours reported in the survey not only pose a risk to the health, safety and professional wellbeing of those who are subjected to it, but also have an adverse effect on the workplace, the training environment, and the provision of care.

“We recognise that quality health care outcomes are dependent on high functioning teams across the hospital setting, and we are not doing the profession of emergency medicine or our patients any favours by conducting ourselves in this way.”

Professor Lawler said the welfare of its trainees and Fellows was a key priority of the College.

“The College will be working to develop and implement an Action Plan to address these issues. It is anticipated that this will incorporate cultural change as well as improvements to our education and training program, and governance structures,” Professor Lawler said.

Background

In response to increased scrutiny of the medical workforce culture in 2015, a College working group was formed in 2016 to explore the workplace and training culture within emergency medicine. Members were kept up to date and the College set up a section on its website detailing the process of the working group.

An independent, confidential and anonymous survey of all ACEM trainees, Fellows, Specialist International Medical Graduates, Certificants and Diplomates was conducted between April and May this year. The College actively urged participation from members. 44% of members responded.

The College also encouraged members who have encountered discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment in their workplace to seek confidential support.

Contact

Andre Khoury
ACEM Public Affairs Manager
03 8679 8813
0498 068 023
[email protected]

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