Surgeons to receive profession-wide cultural overhaul

by Chloe Taylor01 Dec 2015
In an attempt to overhaul the “Anglo-Saxon boys club” reputation of the Australian surgical sector, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has pledged to promote more women and “call out” bullies.

Yesterday, the college’s president David Watters said around 50 complaints about surgeons had been filed this year, following an independent review that found bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment were rife within the profession.

Watters asserted that the complaints were being handled by legal experts and counsellors, but said that he was unaware as yet of any sanctions being imposed.

However, he claimed that a plan published yesterday would strengthen the complaints processes to ensure that perpetrators were held accountable for their behaviour.

“We will need to work hard to close the gap between where we are now and where we want to be,” Watters said.

“We must do some things differently, deal with the behaviours we have said we will not tolerate and champion those that will help build a respectful, collaborative culture.”

In its newly released blueprint, the college vowed to introduce a diversity plan that involved targets for women in leadership positions.

It was also stated that the college would keep watch over how many women were applying for surgical training and remaining in it.

The introduction of more flexible and part-time training – which has commonly been offered by other specialist training colleges, such as the Royal Australasian College for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – will be also considered by the college.

The plan also promised to introduce:
  • Mandatory training for surgeons in discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment
  • Training in effective performance feedback
  • Safe complaints mechanisms for trainees
  • Independent reviews of trainees placed on probation to ensure they are not being unfairly targeted or bullied
  • An independent ombudsman to provide external scrutiny and accountability
  • More communication with hospitals, universities, health departments, governments and regulators
  • A review of assessment processes for international medical graduates and processes to ensure surgical appointments are merit based
  • Annual reporting of all complaints in an anonymous manner, and another survey of trainees and fellows about bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment in 2020


  • by HerLadyship 1/12/2015 12:10:13 PM

    I wish them good luck! A group of more self-satisfied, entitled, egotistical bullies will be hard to find elsewhere. In my younger days before HR I worked in a hospital and regularly observed cardiac surgery. The way those surgeons treated nurses especially was appalling. I saw a surgeon throw an instrument at a senior cardiac nurse once. Of course no one protested. I wonder if things have changed at all!?

  • by Michael Minns 1/12/2015 10:42:47 PM

    This is a classical case of addressing the symptoms and not the cause. As clinicians they should have more sense, The root cause is that they can not be replaced by others of similar standing and that, of course, is part of the overall objective of all professional bodies.

    Keep on treating the symptoms and not the cause and we will, over time, end up exactly where we are now. Good luck. Diagnosis 101.

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