Confronting allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within a regional surgical profession aired on a prominent current affairs program. The professional body governing the conduct of surgeons needed to respond and act fast.
Using Platos, they heard from all members, especially the most vulnerable, and were able to understand what was going on, why it was happening and how to fix it. Read more.
- Confronting allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within a regional surgical profession were aired on a prominent current affairs program
- Many months’ media scrutiny of practices in the once venerable profession followed
- The professional body governing the conduct of surgeons set up an independent process to make recommendations for change.
The College needed to hear from all members, and to respond in particular to the needs of vulnerable members and understand what was going on, why it was happening and how to fix it.
The independent Expert Advisory Group (EAG) advising the professional College convened four private Platos forums. Two of the forums were fully anonymous, enabling the trainees and international medical graduates the psychological safety to talk candidly about their experiences, their fears and hopes for change. The forums ran in parallel to a traditional research program involving surveys and interviews.
A two-phase process over 10 days’ discussion enabled members to voice their often different experiences, and say how and what the organization needed to change to protect members from harm, and protect the reputation of the profession.
The Engagement Process
Members were invited to comment on topics within the EAG Draft Issues Paper. Discussion topics included: changes to policies and procedures, the wider health system, the issue of “by-standers”, and instances of discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment. After the forum, the Platos data report was provided to the EAG for inclusion in their response to the College.
Forum participants revealed that until Platos, there had never been an avenue to speak out without fear of retribution. There were sections of the profession with low trust.
Some candid, arresting member experiences galvanised the College’s transformation program. The Platos program was delivered in 1/4 the time and at 1/8th the cost of the traditional survey and interview program.
The College responded to the Expert Advisory Group’s final paper with an action plan that started with:
- Issuing a public apology to its members
- Filling gaps in training, education and policy
- Establishing partnerships with employers and others in the health sector
- Actively holding practitioners and employers to account against agreed standards
- Meeting its duty of care to trainees
- Making it safe for people to raise concerns without fear of retribution
- Taking on other recommendations spanning culture and leadership, and;
- Improving surgical training and complaints handling processes.
Platos helped us understand the problems
Platos helped the industry body show their people that they wanted and valued their stories. Individuals were able to share their experiences candidly, without fear of repercussions, so the EAG could better understand the problems and recommend ways to stop them.
“We needed to show people that we wanted
and valued their stories. [Platos] did that,
and it allowed [us] to ask questions - and
be seen to ask questions - that helped us
understand the problems. I liked the ability
to move through to an outcome.”
—Expert Advisory Group secretariat