22 May Welcome
Welcome to Humanise Culture! If you’re an individual or organisation whose interest has been piqued about improving workplace culture – you’re in the right place. Although the initial focus is on the healthcare sector, the topic is applicable to many different professions.
Humanise Culture was founded by me, Simon, a doctor, after being confronted again and again by the effects of burnout within my profession. The lacklustre look on many doctors’ faces, the increasing media reports of suicides within the profession here in Australia, but also in the UK and the US, led me to look for solutions to reduce some of these tragic fallouts. The whispered and murmured acknowledgment of the increased risk of mental illness and suicide within the profession seemed an insufficient response to the issue. I was frustrated with the inability of doctors and organisations to effect change at a grassroots level. Despite improving working conditions over the past twenty years, the effects of chronic stress and burnout are too obvious. Where these develop into a mental illness, or contribute to suicidality, is difficult to delineate at times.
Because the line is so hard to define, I want to focus on wellbeing within our profession, our organisations, and our individual lives. I want to research and implement how we inculcate wellbeing into undergraduate medical education and postgraduate training. I want to explore the value proposition to organisations of ensuring that workforce wellbeing is something that is measured, recorded, made transparently available, and acted upon. The business case is not hard to build: evidence clearly shows that burnt out doctors experience increased rates of absenteeism, presenteeism, reduced efficacy, make more mistakes, and their patients have reduced satisfaction – and we know that reduced patient satisfaction results in worse patient outcomes. Even if we are not able to put a dollar value on the wellbeing, burnout, or suicide of one doctor, the dollars lost due to a burnt out doctor’s work are considerable.
I’m also interested in how medical culture maintains – and even fetishizes – these negative feelings as some sort of marker of belonging or achievement within the profession. Doctors often enter their undergraduate education with hardwired personality traits that make them excellent at maintaining the status quo, toeing the line, and doing what’s needed for the task immediately in front of them. The prestige associated with being a medical professional and the monetary compensation was previously seen as being adequate recompense for the less desirable aspects of the job (long hours, stressful work situations, etc). The apprenticeship-style, baptism of fire graduation into the profession was portrayed as a rite of passage which sorted out the weak from the strong; complaining was actively discouraged, so instead the unpleasant realities of the job – dealing with repetitive traumatic situations, working excessive hours, poor sleep due to shift work, being understaffed – are then spoken about half-jokingly, half-despairingly.
Humanise Culture is here to constructively disrupt the status quo. The fundamental aim is to help the many hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals in Australia, and eventually the millions around the world, work in an environment which prioritises their wellbeing so that they can deliver the care they have been trained to give, to a degree that patients deserve.
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