Physician Health & Safety

Physician health and safety: PMA Memorandum of Agreement

Improving physician health and safety in the workplace has become an increasingly important priority among members. So much so that it was incorporated into the 2019 Physician Master Agreement, leading to the creation of the Memorandum of Agreement on Physical/Psychological Safety (now referred to as the Physician Health and Safety Agreement). This agreement provides physicians with the opportunity to be included in widespread systemic change to better support physical and psychological health and safety in the workplace. It is also the first of its kind in Canada and the first time Doctors of BC has worked with the Ministry of Health, the Health Employers Association of BC, health authorities, and health care related bargaining associations on these types of specific issues.

Physical and psychological safety

Improving%20Physician%20Health%20and%20SafetyPhysical and psychological health and safety are vital in creating safe work environments that contribute to injury prevention and that cultivate innovative, engaged, and effective teams. However, both physical violence and psychological safety events in the workplace continue to be prevalent for physicians and other healthcare providers. As a result, improving physician health and safety in the workplace is a key priority for Doctors of BC.  

Physician health and safety is comprised of two components: physical safety, such protecting physicians from accidents or acts of violence in the workplace, and psychological safety, which centres on issues such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, racism, and intimidation. In the absence of psychological safety, physicians are less likely to speak up, raise patient safety issues, suggest new ideas, or ask for help for fear of reprisal or embarrassment. 

Research shows that creating a work environment in which doctors feel safe contributes to their overall well-being, and is crucial for organizational efforts aimed at reducing medical errors, improving the coordination and quality of care, and increasing cost effectiveness.  

What members told us

Doctors of BC is acutely aware of physical and psychological safety concerns in the physician workplace. In our 2020 Health Authority Engagement Survey, two key issues stood out:  

1 in 2 physicians have been impacted by a physical/psychological safety incident

But only 1 in 2 physicians felt their hospital deals effectively with situations that may harm them

Improving physician health and safety in the workplace

What are the goals of the Physician Health and Safety Agreement?

The ultimate goals of the Agreement are to:

  • Strengthen relationships between Doctors of BC, Medical Affairs departments, and Occupational Health and Safety departments within health authorities to better support physicians in their workplaces
  • Provide structures and mechanisms to represent physicians in these matters, including the opportunity to influence policy and decision making at both the provincial and regional level
  • Enhance processes and communications around all aspects of physician health and safety, more specifically by ensuring transparency and feedback loops when raising issues without fear of reprisal

 

How does the Physician Health and Safety Agreement address safety in the workplace?

The Agreement has established a number of new regional and provincial committees, structures, and working groups focused specifically on enhancing and improving physical and psychological health and safety in the workplace. It aims to accomplish this by supporting activities that enable consistent policies and procedures for physician specific occupational health and safety issues including: exposure management, contact tracing, enabling feedback loops, and more. The Agreement also provides funding for the following committees, structures, and Working Groups to begin activities that support physician health and safety. 

Structures:

  • The BC Health Care Occupational Health and Safety Society – an independent Society with representatives from all health sector bargaining associations, Doctors of BC, the Health Employers Association of British Columbia (HEABC), and the Ministry of Health. It is governed by a Board of Directors upon which Doctors of BC is a voting member. The Society will focus on Occupational Health and Safety in health care settings.

Committees and Working Groups: 

  • Physician Specific Issues Working Group: a joint provincial committee/working group between the Ministry of Health, health authorities, Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC), and Doctors of BC, whose purpose is to help inform the BC Health Care Occupational Health and Safety Society, as well as identify and discuss regional-level issues to ensure consistency across the province. 
  • Physician Health & Safety Advisory Group: an internal group comprised of Doctors of BC physician representatives and Doctors of BC staff who aims to provide updates to and plan/prioritize ideas for the Physician Specific Issues Working Group and each Regional Working Group.
  • Regional Physician Health and Safety Working Groups: established within each Health Authority and comprised of Doctors of BC physician representatives, Regional Advisors and Advocates, and staff from Health Authority Medical Affairs and the Occupational Health and Safety department, the purpose of these groups is to build relationships, identify and discuss new opportunities for physician input, and develop activities, projects, and initiatives related to physician health and safety that can be funded under the Agreement.
Current work under the Physician Health and Safety Agreement

A number of regional and provincial projects and activities are underway that seek solutions to creating systemic change. These include onboarding and training resources with occupational health and safety processes for doctors and creating opportunities for physicians to raise and provide input into health and safety issues and processes, among others. There are also a number of areas in which we expect to see change:

  • Improved physician safety (both physical and psychological) and support 
  • Improved occupational health and safety processes 
  • Creation of consistent data reporting and tracking mechanisms 

Doctors of BC policy on workplace safety

Supporting BC physicians in their pursuit of workplace health and safety has become an increasingly important priority for Doctors of BC. Our work in this area includes our 2017 policy statement Promoting Psychological Safety for Physicians, our 2016 policy statement Preventing Violence in Healthcare, and local initiatives established via the Divisions of Family Practice and Medical Staff Associations.

Who do I contact if I am experiencing a safety issue?

Any physician who is experiencing issues of physical or psychological health and safety, or who has been involved or impacted by it in the past, is encouraged to contact your local Regional Advisor and Advocate.