Message from the President and Vice President

We can all be proud of the work RACS has done to lead the health sector in addressing discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment (DBSH). 

In November 2015, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) launched its Action Plan: Building Respect, Improving Patient Safety to address these problems in surgical practice. Our colleagues on the current Council share our absolute commitment to continuing this work.

This update shares with you what we have done in 2016, alone and in partnership, to help build a culture of respect in our profession and flag our priorities for next year. Early in 2017, we will publish a detailed account of our first year's work on the Action Plan.

During 2016, the connection between DBSH and patient safety became clearer and less contentious. I suspect we have all known this intuitively for a long time, but the evidence to confirm this is growing. Our commitment to change has been galvanised by this fact and because our SET Trainees and IMGs must learn in a safe environment.

The problems of DBSH extend well beyond surgery and affect the whole health sector. During 2016, RACS has been engaging with a broad range of organisations including hospitals, universities, health departments and other health jurisdictions to gain their commitment so we can work together, with a common goal, to create effective change. Other specialist medical colleges are now approaching us to enquire about our resources and partnering with us.

Our campaign - Let's Operate With Respect - has given real focus to our work. Many surgeons have been generous in allowing us to use their faces on our campaign posters. They and their colleagues have taken a strong stand in their own spheres of influence, and have facilitated many of our agreements with hospital networks.

It is now up to each of us as surgeons to play our part. We need to lead the way wherever we work, to advocate for change, to stand up to unacceptable behaviour and show what it looks like to operate with respect. There are things we can all do in our hospitals to build a culture of respect.

How we behave and what we consider acceptable, shapes our culture and our profession. Let's operate with respect.

Mr Philip Truskett AM, President
Professor Spencer Beasley, Vice President

Highlights and achievements from 2016

The Building Respect, Improving Patient Safety Action Plan (PDF 1.05MB) sets eight goals in three main areas: Cultural Change and Leadership, Surgical Education and Complaints Management. More than 20 projects are now underway, many of which will take more than three years to deliver.

Highlights of our progress implementing the Action Plan in 2016 include:

What to watch for in 2017

Our work to build a culture of respect will continue through 2017.

Priorities include:

  • supporting all Fellows, Trainees and IMGs to complete the e-learning module. We will be reporting publicly on completion rates
  • supporting surgical educators to do the FSSE course. We will be reporting publicly on completion rates
  • launching face to face training to strengthen the skills of surgical educators to build respect, identify and deal with DBSH
  • providing a leadership development program through surgical directors
  • implementing the RACS Diversity and Inclusion Plan (PDF 857.21KB).

We all need to be involved in this cultural change - for our patients, colleagues, Trainees, IMGs, medical students and all healthcare workers. Let's operate with respect and improve our patients' outcomes.

With best wishes for the festive season.