Bullying is a well-known issue in health care, whether identified as bullying, undermining, disruptive behaviour, incivility, lateral violence or horizontal violence. Many professional organizations in health care have developed positions against bullying and resources to promote healthy working environments, including the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) and, jointly, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) and the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA). The AOM joins other healthcare stakeholders in denouncing bullying and aims to develop tools to help midwives identify, expose and respond to bullying.
In its Position Statement on Bullying, the AOM takes a clear stance on harassment, bullying and any behaviour that undermines midwives in any work setting. The AOM invites midwives to denounce bullying in their practice groups, birth centres, hospitals and all other places of work and life.
The AOM is addressing bullying with a four-prong approach:
- Examining systemic factors that feed into bullying
- Making bullying unacceptable in midwifery
- Supporting those who experience bullying
- Promoting healthy practice and healthy midwives
As part of this approach, the AOM is taking many coordinated actions against bullying, including but not limited to the following:
- acknowledging that midwives engage in bullying behaviours
- listening to and respecting the experiences of midwives who have been or are being bullied
- raising awareness about bullying by sharing resources, organizing conference sessions, webinars and other educational offerings
- inviting midwives to publically denounce bullying
- providing education, tools and resources around midwives’ legal responsibilities for occupational health and safety, human rights, employment standards and accessibility
- empowering midwives to understand and enforce their legal rights through the Legal Expense Insurance
- examining the root causes and contributors to bullying in midwifery (e.g. systemic oppression as a cause of horizontal violence, which is “associated with oppressed groups and can occur in any arena where there are unequal power relations, and one group’s self-expression and autonomy is controlled by forces with greater prestige, power and status than themselves”)
- recognizing that colonialism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism, and all other forms of systemic oppression contribute to bullying and negatively impact workplace relations, healthcare spaces and society
- committing to developing policies, protocols, programs and services that seek to eliminate systemic barriers, protect and uphold human rights and promote inclusion in every facet of our work
- developing a greater understanding of midwives’ experiences of bullying, through surveys and focus groups, to inform future actions
- examining the disparity in supports available to different midwives and exploring what supports may be available to targets of bullying
- developing a Code of Ethics that is progressive, responsive to the current realities of midwifery and reflects what we aspire to as a profession
- equipping midwives with the tools needed to support strong and supportive work environments, including supporting best practices in practice management, human resources, power sharing, financial management and mentoring
- recognizing the importance of fostering midwives’ individual health and resilience, and looking for creative ways to support midwives in work-life harmony.
- working with other midwifery and health care stakeholders to challenge the conditions and systems that allow bullying to take place.
For further information on bullying, see this AOM webpage.