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Supporting a Fair Environment (SAFE) Initiative to address mistreatment and unprofessional behaviors in the learning environment

This past year a taskforce was charged with developing a plan to address concerns that have been raised about the learning climate at Washington University Medical Center. Specifically, we have noted rising rates of reported mistreatment from our medical students, with similar trends among residents and fellows in the clinical environments and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the research environments. The taskforce presented recommendations to the executive faculty that were unanimously approved in January. Among these recommendations was the development of the new Supporting a Fair Environment (SAFE) committee, led by Dr. Lisa Moscoso, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Dr. Jenny Duncan, Director of Wellness for GME. Click here to see Full Report.

The SAFE committee is developing and implementing new processes for reporting and addressing professionalism and mistreatment concerns for all learners at WUSM, including our graduate and professional programs, post-doctoral fellowships and trainees in the WUSM/BJH/SLCH GME Consortium. The committee aims to improve learner confidence in reporting processes, while also ensuring that individuals or system problems identified are appropriately protected from false allegations. The committee has faculty and learner representation from diverse areas of the school of medicine, as well as representatives from the hospitals and will report to the Academic Affairs Committee. Drs. Moscoso and Duncan have spent time meeting with Department Chairs and hospital leaders to ensure strong partnerships in these efforts.

In the coming months, learners, staff and faculty should expect to see many new efforts roll out. Educational modules are being developed by the Academy of Educators that will highlight incidents of mistreatment, especially those that may sometimes go unrecognized. A new confidential reporting system is being refined, with clear and consistent processes for evaluating and acting upon reported incidents. Our goal is for all reports to go into a single system so that reports about the same individual or area are recognized sooner and managed consistently. The reporting system will include the opportunity for anonymous bidirectional communication through the portal and will ensure we can “close the loop” with all reporters so they know that action was taken. A new SAFE initiative website will allow any individual in our medical center community (including those that witness mistreatment of others) quick access to report into the confidential concern portal. There will also be a link to a new accolade form, where we hope to capture positive experiences in our learning environment, so we can learn from these areas and commend individuals for their efforts. The SAFE committee is also working to ensure similar policy language across our different systems, through collaborative efforts with our BJH/SLCH partners.

The new SAFE initiative, combined with many of the efforts from our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is another marker of our strong commitment to improve the culture at WUSM.

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