February 20, 2015 12:07 am
Updated: August 6, 2016 3:16 pm

‘Pervasive culture of bullying’ at VGH operating rooms

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WATCH: A new report says “professional bullying” is rampant in BC’s hospitals. Jill Bennett explains the startling impact of bullying in the operating room.

Vancouver Coastal Health says that over the last 20 years, “there’s been a pervasive culture of bullying” in the operating rooms at Vancouver General Hospital.

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A survey of all staff in the Jim Pattison Operating Rooms was sparked by 22 operating nurses leaving in 2012. Of those, the 15 who conducted exit interviews all said that a negative work climate and bullying contributed to their exit.

The survey found that over 60 per cent of Vancouver Coastal Health employees witnessed humiliation of another person and repeated and unjust criticism. Nearly 69 per cent said they had difficulties speaking up at work, and people used the words “toxic,” “stressful,” and “oppressive and depressing” to describe the environment.

In response, 27 people received a letter of warning. Another 14 were either suspended, terminated, demoted or had their privileges revoked.

“In a way it surprises, and in a way it didn’t,” said Anne Harvey, VP Employee Engagement at Vancouver Coastal Health.

“Health care internationally has a lot of bullying. It doesn’t matter what country you look at, it is a common factor, part of the system.”

Harvey said that the majority of complaints were about physicians, but there had also been many complaints by nurses about other nurses.

After the survey a confidential anti-bullying line was set up. There were over 575 calls to it in the first year – though Harvey says in this case, that’s a good thing.

“If people aren’t reporting, we can’t resolve these issues,” she said.

Dr. Gary Redekop, head of surgery of VGH, says he doesn’t believe patient care has been affected by the environment. But he said it was an issue that had to be addressed.

“We have to work in this environment. Even it’s just a perception, we have to change that. there’s enough stress in our work anyway, we need to have a culture where people feel they’re part of a team and being treated respectfully,” he said.

– With files from Jill Bennett

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