07 Jun 2022
Leaders across Australia’s medical community have come together to build support and commitment to improving the culture of medicine.
The Medical Board of Australia’s Culture of Medicine Symposium, held in Melbourne on 27 May, shared evidence of poor culture, but focused on fostering a commitment to positive change.
The symposium aimed to build a common understanding of current problems and a shared commitment to positive change.
Opening the session, Medical Board of Australia Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin, said poor culture was associated with poor patient outcomes, which placed the issue firmly within the scope of regulators. Participants identified improved awareness and understanding of cultural safety, meaningful action on racism and collaborations to help effect change as a focus for future effort.
Dr Tonkin said cultural change was complicated and everyone across medicine had a role in improving the culture of medicine.
'No single agency or individual – acting alone - has all the levers needed to achieve positive change. But what we can’t do individually, we can do collectively,' she said.
'Many of the biggest challenges rest where accountabilities and responsibilities intersect, and real cultural change will come from agencies navigating jointly, not problem solving individually,' she said.
'We need to be open to caring about and respecting each other, as we care for and respect patients. We need to be open to not knowing all the answers, but trusting that together we can build a culture we can be proud of,' Dr Tonkin said.
Across three years, results from the Medical Training Survey have shown that while medical training in Australia is generally in good shape, there are serious cultural problems in medicine, including bullying, harassment, racism and discrimination. Results of many other surveys across medicine and the wider healthcare sector reveal similar problems.
Symposium participants included representatives from the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA), the AMA Council of Doctors in Training, medical students, specialist medical colleges, jurisdictions, employers, advocates, insurers, academics and clinicians.
Collaborations to foster a positive culture in medicine are at the heart of the Board’s Professional Performance Framework, which aims to support doctors to practise competently and ethically throughout their working lives.
'Everyone wants to foster a culture that is focused on patient safety and the Board is committed to working in partnership with the profession to reshape the culture of medicine and build a culture of respect,' Dr Tonkin said.