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November 19, 2019
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Submission: January 15, 2020
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Message from the Department Head

Dr. Richard Leigh

Dr. Richard Leigh, Zone Clinical & Academic Department Head

What does workplace culture have to do with patient safety? Turns out a whole lot, according to a recent blog in the BMJ. The report cites a number of studies that confirm hospital culture is closely associated with patient outcomes. Among the examples given is that mortality rates are higher for patients with acute myocardial infarction in hospitals where the culture dissuaded physicians, residents, and healthcare professionals from speaking freely or sharing their opinions –essentially promoting a ‘culture of silence’. Similarly, a recent study published in JAMA Surgery (JAMA Surg 2019; 154: 828-834) reported that surgeons who elicited higher numbers of reports about unprofessional behavior (bullying, aggression, etc.) had an approximately 40% higher rate of postoperative complications than surgeons who had no such reports. Conversely, a recent systematic review concluded that a positive organizational culture was correlated to positive patient outcomes, including reduced mortality rates, falls, hospital-acquired infections and increased patient satisfaction.
 
Among my foundational principles for the Department of Medicine are that patient care is at the centre of everything we do, and that excellence in patient care is not negotiable. As an academic Department, we are privileged to be able to teach and mentor clinical trainees and conduct healthcare research. For us to fulfill those mandates requires that we aspire to create a Departmental culture that is safe, transparent, and fair. We succeed or fail as a team, and I’d like to foster a culture in which a Department member’s passion for their vocation and the quality of their ideas supersede academic hierarchy. Department members should feel that they are part of a meritocracy in which excellence, intellectual curiosity, continuous learning, diverse opinions, and teamwork are not only expected, but are rewarded. Know that my door is always open for people to talk to me as to how to make the Department better.
 
We are not there yet -and some may argue that we’re a long way from getting there -but last week’s outstanding Medical Grand Rounds by Drs. Aleem Bharwani and Shannon Ruzycki on the Gender Equity Report in the Department was a good start. The report illustrates that we’ve begun the process of measuring the existing culture in an effort to better create an environment of inclusiveness, integrity, equity, and the ability to inspire young physicians to want to work in the Department of Medicine in the future. For those of you who missed Aleem and Shannon’s rounds, you can download a copy of their report here.
 
As part of our efforts to enhance a positive workplace culture, we’re asking all Department members to complete either the University of Calgary or Alberta Health Services Respect in the Workplace module. AHS Executive Leadership is also requesting that all physicians also complete Indigenous Peoples in Alberta: An Introduction and InfoCare: On Our Best Behaviours. Each module takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, and provides informative learnings on their respective subject content.