Vancouver, BC – As the province of B.C. marks Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 25, one health authority has taken steps to ensure that the anti-bullying message is heard every day of the year.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is the first employer in Canada to offer a confidential 1-800 line to report bullying and disrespectful behaviour.
“Bullying doesn’t just happen in the schoolyard—it’s a real fact of life in the workplace as well,” says Anne Harvey, VCH’s vice-president of Employee Engagement. “Being disrespected can hurt even the most confident person and the impact of bullying can reach far beyond the boundaries of the workplace. It’s time we all put a stop to it.”
“Doctors, nurses and other health care staff work in incredibly stressful environments where lives are at stake and time is of the essence,” she says. “Sometimes our responses to these stressors can become ingrained and inappropriate. As an organization, we want staff to know that we’re not going to tolerate any kind of disrespectful behaviour.”
VCH’s ‘No Bully’ line offers a unique form of support where employees and physicians can confidentially debrief their experience with a counsellor, who will help them determine what next steps should be taken.
“Before we launched our ‘No Bully’ line, a lot of people struggled with whether the behaviour they were experiencing was really bullying, and deciding if they wanted to go through the discomfort of facing their bully,” says Harvey. “But our phone line has really given staff the courage to speak up because they know VCH will give them the support they need.”
If employees want their complaint formally investigated, they are referred to an experienced Human Resource Advisor who will investigate the complaint within three business days. From there, the advisor will update the complainant every 10 days until the situation is resolved.
“Allowing staff to put their experience into words and reflect on the situation gives people who feel powerless a sense of control over the actions they take next,” Harvey explains. “We’ve even had employees with complaints lodged against them call the line and talk about the impact of the accusations and how to move forward.”
In its first year of operation, the No Bully line has received 600 complaints. Of these, 254 complaints were resolved by communicating appropriate expectations, reaching a behavioural agreement or making an apology. A total of 27 employees and physicians received a letter of warning. Another 14 were either suspended, terminated, demoted or had their privileges revoked. More than 100 other complaints were investigated but found not to involve any violation of VCH policy. The most common incidents reported included insults, offensive language, gossiping, cyber-bullying, shouting, intimidating language or actions.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.2 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
Tiffany Akins, Communications Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health