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Respect is at the heart of professionalism and central to being a good surgeon. How we behave shapes our culture and profession and impacts on the safety of our patients.
Much has changed inside and outside the College over the last four years, in relation to discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment. It will take much more time before these problems are a thing of the past. In the meantime, we are at the forefront of a wave of change that is transforming an historic, global tolerance of unacceptable behaviour and creating an appetite for a new order, based on respect.
RACS is grateful to all our partners across the health sector and within the College who are committed to positive system-wide change. Formally and informally, we are collaborating with many organisations and individuals who share our goal of improving patient safety by fostering respect in surgery.
Within the College, we work closely with our Speciality Training Boards and Specialty Training Boards to maximise the impact of our efforts to build respect in surgery. Externally, we work with employers and other agencies committed to positive cultural change. We now have 35 partnership agreements with organisations across the health sector that share our goal of building a culture of respect in surgery and in healthcare more broadly.
Our Action Plan (PDF 1.05MB) (PDF 1.05MB) continues to guide our work and is focused on three main areas: culture and leadership, surgical education and complaints management. Successive RACS Councils continue to endorse and actively support this long term plan.
Collaborating for change
RACS is working with health services and employers of surgeons, signing agreements which commit both agencies to actions that support a culture of respect.
Improving surgical education is a cornerstone of our commitment to building a culture of respect in surgery and is consistent with our vision to lead surgical performance, professionalism and improve patient care.
The first wave of our Building Respect Improving Patient Safety education program focused on increasing awareness and knowledge of discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment through a mandated e-learning module. This training is now a pre-requisite for application to surgical training.
More recent work has focused on surgical educators and RACS committee members, by expanding their teaching skills (including their ability to give constructive feedback) and equipping them with strategies and skills to respond to unacceptable behaviour.
As we roll out our Building Respect program, we continue to draw on the intellect and guidance of Professor Jerry Hickson, an internationally acknowledged leader in approaches to promote quality, patient safety, and risk prevention in health care.
Complaints and feedback
Complaints management, and working with employers, are areas of ongoing focus for the College. Effective complaints management is a shared endeavour between RACS, individual surgeons, Trainees, employers, and in the most serious cases, regulators. Each of us has a role to play.
One of the big challenges is to get the best possible interface between complaints processes employers have in place and RACS internal systems. An important goal in this work is to agree how to best work together to understand problems and deal with them effectively.
Our success in complaints management long term will be measured by the surgeons who improve their practice, increase their professional skills and help foster a culture of respect in surgery.
Policies and procedures
We have updated many of our policies and procedures to make sure they reflect RACS' commitment to building respect, and improving patient safety.
Some of the most important policies and procedures that have been developed or updated include:
- Code of Conduct
- Privacy of Personal Information (PDF 49.5KB) (PDF 49.5KB)
- Complaints policy (PDF 164.4KB) (PDF 339KB)
RACS routinely reviews and updates its policies and procedures. We will update this section progressively.
Measuring our progress
RACS Action Plan: Building Respect, Improving Patient Safety sets eight clear goals. Meeting them will take a sustained effort over many years. To make sure our work is targeted and effective, we have developed and published an evaluation framework.
This comprehensive evaluation framework (PDF 757.1KB) will help us measure our progress and continue to refine and improve all our work to build respect in surgery.
A systematic process led by external consultants, backed by a Project Reference Group, supported its development. The evaluation framework will help RACS assess the reach and impact of our work over the short, medium and long term, and specifically after five and ten years.
The first evaluation
Our first evaluation was conducted in 2019 and examined whether we have done what we set out to do. Future evaluations will assess the impact of our work.
The first evaluation included a survey open to all Fellows, Trainees and International Medical Graduates, qualitative interviews and analysis of other data sources. Using the Action Plan’s planned outcomes as a base, key evaluation questions (PDF 231.54KB) and appropriate indicators and data sources were identified.
Results of the phase one evaluation will inform future work and shape our priorities as we continue to build respect in surgery. The College is delighted that independent scrutiny has endorsed the work we have done and our commitment to doing it.
“The College is now seen to be in step with public opinion and broader societal shifts. More than this, the College is now seen as leading the way as an institution that has acknowledged these problems and made a serious commitment to addressing them. “
Excerpt from the summary of the 2019 evaluation.