Remember banging pots and pans to show solidarity with front-line workers early in the pandemic? Or the messages of thanks drawn in chalk on sidewalks? In the last few days, cute drawings from kids thanking COVID vaccination teams have also been brightening my Twitter feed.
At the same time, there’s a dark side. In recent months, we’ve been witnessing a worrying escalation of online and offline threats and harassment of healthcare professionals, with women and racialized people targeted disproportionately. Many people working in healthcare have also put their own physical and mental health at risk while caring for others. They’ve endured a difficult journey over the course of the pandemic, evident in high levels of stress and experiencing symptoms of burnout. And the safety of the people who work in healthcare and patient safety are deeply intertwined, as the World Health Organization recognized in 2020.
How can we move forward, together?
Beyond clanging pots and pans, there are opportunities to support the safety of healthcare professionals in tangible ways. Legislative and policy innovations are in progress at several levels, along with efforts to encourage social media companies to implement concrete action plans to address harassment online. In addition, there are actions that we can take as individuals and organizations.
At Healthcare Excellence Canada, we’ve been putting together resources for dealing with online harassment (below) that we hope will be useful for those affected and their allies. I hope that you haven’t experienced this problem personally, but if you have – or you know someone who has – I hope that you’ll find useful tools and advice in this collection.
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety - Internet Harassment or Cyberbullying
- Canadian Medical Association - Wellness Hub
- CBC Current - episode addressing threats to clinicians during the pandemic
- IMPACT and the authors of this JAMA study on the prevalence of personal attacks and sexual harassment of physicians on social media have created social media harassment toolkit: https://www.impact4hc.com/social-media-harassment-toolkit
- Registered Nurses Association of Ontario - Best Practice Guideline Preventing Violence, Harassment and Bullying Against Health Workers
- Wellness Together Canada – mental health and substance use support
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Do you have resources to add or insights on dealing with online harassment in Canada and any other hard-won lessons or tips from personally navigating these challenges that you’d like us to help share to benefit others? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.