Let’s talk about the toxic culture in Australia’s healthcare sector

According to the Victorian Government’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), every year, one in six healthcare workers report they’ve been bullied, and one in ten healthcare workers has been sexually harassed.

This troubling issue is becoming more prevalent in media reports. Here are three recent examples:

Workplace bullying among Canberra health staff 'worst' nurses have seen, report reveals

Australian nurses are sexually harassed by our patients. It's not part of our job

Latrobe Regional Hospital facing Health Department investigation into claims of bullying, intimidation

The DHHS and WorkSafe Victoria are now campaigning to stop inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. Know Better, Be Better is a bullying and harassment awareness campaign aimed at all healthcare workers and leaders in Victorian public health services. The campaign spells out the seriousness of the issue:

“Workplace bullying and harassment can cause physical and mental health issues including high blood pressure, skin and gastrointestinal problems, headaches, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts... The healthcare sector suffers from this toxic culture.”

The Know Better, Be Better web page includes a wealth of resources and information for employers, managers and staff, covering topics such as:

  • Understanding bullying and harassment

  • Actions and reporting behaviour

  • Support and guidance

  • Legal, management and workplace considerations

  • Campaign resources

  • Case studies

Ultimately, leadership is accountable for the workplace culture. While the campaign Know Better, Be Better emphasises the “importance of working together to eliminate inappropriate behaviours”, the awareness, conversation and commitment to change should start at the top.

“It’s important that managers ensure the right policies and procedures are in place to prevent, identify and act on inappropriate behaviour and that they encourage teams to report all bullying or harassment when it happens… If you’re a bystander, speak up. If you’re a victim, call it out and report it. If you’re a leader, step in.”

Employers also have a legal obligation to control inappropriate behaviour in the workplace under various employment legislation.

For healthcare organisations dealing with issues such as bullying and harassment, WorkPlacePLUS offers a number of support services. These include but are not limited to independent workplace investigations, mediation, employee assistance and training programs. For more information, please contact us today.

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