A new, faculty-centred approach to bullying and harassment
UNSW is taking a new, faculty-wide approach to the bullying and harassment of Medical students. The project also links into existing best practice, university-wide programs and the national wellbeing framework released last year, Every Doctor Every Setting.
In May 2021, about one year after appointing Catherine Marley as their first Faculty Wellbeing Officer, the senior leadership team of UNSW Medicine and Health endorsed her plan for a Medicine & Health Taskforce to deal with the issue of bullying and harassment of students.
The taskforce currently includes the Senior Vice Dean Education and three Associate Deans, and will soon recruit medical student representatives. The following step will be to engage champions from each clinical school, campus, centre and institute, as well as a coursework program for each school, to work closely with the taskforce. These key stakeholders will be integral to ensuring that tangible steps are taken.
“The project draws on the “Every Doctor, Every Setting” Framework to ensure that all initiatives are relevant for all students in undergraduate, postgraduate and research programs within the faculty.”
The Medicine & Health Taskforce is one strand of a comprehensive new anti-bullying and harassment project developed by Catherine and endorsed by faculty senior leadership. The project draws on the Every Doctor, Every Setting Framework to ensure that all initiatives are relevant for all students in undergraduate, postgraduate and research programs within the faculty.
Like Every Doctor, UNSW Medicine and Health’s anti-bullying project consists of primary, secondary and tertiary interventions and prevention strategies. The primary strategy focuses on raising awareness and providing education, in safe and inclusive training environments, that make clear the faculty’s zero tolerance approach to bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination.
The training explores how to manage and report incidents so as to break cultural expectations that bullying is commonplace and acceptable – particularly within learning environments such as university campuses and clinical training.
Catherine also delivers annual lectures to senior medical students and invites students to open up a dialogue about these serious issues. From 2022, these lectures will be extended to Years 1 to 3 of the Medicine program.
“The project calls for specific training for faculty staff, informed and guided by data obtained through student and PhD candidate surveys.”
Another part of this strand is the proposed development of online and face-to-face training for faculty staff on bullying and harassment. Although this already exists in a broad sense within UNSW (as part of Responsible Employee Training), the project calls for specific training for faculty staff, informed and guided by data obtained through student and PhD candidate surveys. UNSW medical students will be formally surveyed for the first time in relation to experiences of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in August 2021.
The proposed secondary intervention and prevention initiatives focus on the management of incidents of bullying and harassment that may not need to be managed through a formal process. This includes the promotion of active bystander training for both staff and students, and the development of stronger relationships and anti-bullying campaigns with clinical schools and affiliated organisations.
In addition, we will link into broader university initiatives such as the UNSW ‘Be a Better Human’ campaign, which aims to help strengthen a more respectful and inclusive culture where issues such as bullying and harassment are openly discussed.
Tertiary intervention specifically relates to support after an event occurs. Again, this sits within broader university pathways such as the UNSW Sexual Misconduct Portal, UNSW’s Student Integrity Unit, the Human Resources Team and NSW Health policies and procedures.
It is our hope that this multi-pronged approach to addressing bullying and harassment within the faculty and broader learning environments will significantly reduce, and ideally eradicate, these issues.
 Professor Gary Velan
 Launched nationally in October 2020, this framework aims to guide coordinated action on the mental health of doctors and medical students and was developed under the guidance of a national working group and in consultation with doctors and medical students.
This story is part of a series: Turning the tide of bullying and harassment
in medical education and training