This week the Four Corners expose on bullying in the medical profession has been all over mainstream (see here and here) and social media. An article by Kimberley Ivory and Helen Scott in The Conversation looked at the scope and devastating impact of bullying on both staff and patients.  In Victoria it has previously been announced that a broader enquiry into workplace conditions will also be looking at harassment and bulling in public hospitals. While exposing the issue and calling for change is important, the challenge of changing a culture that some believe is as old as the profession is not insubstantial. In this a Mary Freer looks at whether social learning may be part of the solution.

Mary Freer writes:

“A new perspective is changing how we think about society, politics, interpersonal relationships, science, government, and business. New approaches are emerging. Learning and self-expression are exploding. Values are changing. Leadership is changing. The economy is changing. Change itself is changing—it is accelerating and becoming the norm.” —Deb Lavoy, Social business leader and former director at OpenText

A few things are on my mind. I’m thinking a lot about social learning and how it offers us a way to create more powerful and shared responses to complex problems. Having arrived on the other side of Change Day Australia 2015 I’m looking back and marveling at the opportunities of social learning that we both took advantage of and completely missed.

I’m also caught up with how we make a radical change to the culture of our health services, where bullying and intimidation are rife.  If our trainee doctors are being bullied and intimidated by their supervisors then it goes without saying that nurses and ward clerks and catering staff wouldn’t be working in a harmony bubble. Where bullying thrives it touches everyone.

Lately my mind has also turned to bravery: the way we make a stand that is powerful but moves the conversation forward. I survived for the first 40 years of my life by being unequivocally bold and outspoken. Outspoken and bold will get you heard but tolerance and courage will take others with you. In the last decade I’ve opted for courage and patience and speaking up, sometimes very quietly.

Social learning; a radical change of culture; bravery.

Maybe we have a triangle of possibility. I’m just thinking/blogging out loud here. But hang in there with me.

The questions I’m asking myself are

  1. How can we use social learning to create a new culture in healthcare where intimidation tactics and bullying behaviour have no home? I don’t mean leaning back on the ‘zero tolerance’ mantra. I mean really creating something that is tangible.
  2. How can we take a social learning model and teach bravery, mentor courage and speak up when we see our colleagues and our peers re-inscribing an old culture that we agree is detrimental to our health? Speak up in a way that brings them with us.

I know there isn’t a simple answer but I’m wondering about a few things that I might contribute and I welcome others to join me.

  1. Establishing a School for Health and Care Radicals in Australia (modeled on the NHS School for Health and Care Radicals) using a social learning methodology where we have the freedom to create a new community of health and care workers so we can learn together.
  2. Learning how to have brave conversations together. This new language will be one where we can look to each other for support in declaring kind and respectful relationships. If I had to come up with a hashtag for this it would be #WeCanDoBetter

We are creating our own socially connected ‘kitchen table’ for talking, it’s a social space, a learning place and it requires us to be brave.

Credits: I’ve been reading the first release chapter of The New Social Learning by Tony Bingham and Marcia Connor and Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and  Al Switzler. I recommend both of these books to you.

This post was first published on Mary’s blog

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