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 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.
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
The ultimate goals of the Agreement are to:
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.
Committees and Working Groups:
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:
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.
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.