College raises stakes on discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in surgery

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3 May 2016

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) today launched a campaign to help deal effectively with discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in surgery.

Let's Operate With Respect is a call to action for the 7,000 surgeons and 1,300 Trainees and International Medical Graduates in Australia and New Zealand.

'We know these problems are common throughout the health sector, but it's up to us to improve things in surgery,' said RACS President, Professor David Watters OBE.

It is now more than a year since the College was in the national spotlight because of discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in surgery. In March 2015, RACS appointed an Expert Advisory Group to advise it on the extent of these problems and what the College should do about them. The College accepted all the recommendations made in the EAG report and launched its Action Plan: Building Respect, Improving Patient Safety.

The Let's Operate With Respect campaign aims to get surgeons talking about these problems and support culture change in the profession. It marks the start of a new, long-term effort supporting the roll out of the RACS Action Plan, which details the work RACS is doing in education, complaints management and culture and leadership.

Speaking at the RACS Annual Scientific Congress in Brisbane, Professor Watters said the campaign marked an opportunity for the profession and reflected a serious commitment from the College.

'We know that these have been real problems for our profession. Too many of us have seen or experienced them and things have to change,' Professor Watters told the ASC.

'We want to build respect, improve patient safety, ensure health workers have a safe and supportive workplace, and deal with discrimination, bullying and harassment in surgery,' Professor Watters said. 

RACS has published a dedicated new section of its website - About respect. There is also a video with surgeons talking about respect, posters for workplaces, individual stories, and an opportunity for individuals to show their support.

'This is a campaign about surgeons, for surgeons. We are creating opportunities for all of us to get involved and show leadership on this important issue. We can shape our culture and the future of our profession around respect,' Professor Watters said.

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