Creating a culture of safety and respect through professional accountability: case study of the Ethos program across eight Australian hospitals

Aust Health Rev. 2022 Jun;46(3):319-324. doi: 10.1071/AH21308.


Behaviour that is disrespectful towards others occurs frequently in hospitals, negatively impacts staff, and may undermine patient care. Professional accountability programs may address unprofessional behaviour by staff. This article examines a whole-of-hospital program, Ethos, developed by St Vincent's Health Australia to address unprofessional behaviour, encourage speaking up, and improve organisational culture. Ethos consists of a bundle of tools, training, and resources, including an online system where staff can make submissions regarding their co-workers' exemplary or unprofessional behaviour. Informal feedback is provided to the subject of the submission to recognise or encourage reflection on their behaviour. Following implementation in eight St Vincent's Health Australia hospitals, the Ethos Messaging System has had 2497 submissions, 54% about positive behaviours. Peer messengers who deliver 'Feedback for Reflection' have faced practical challenges in providing feedback. Guidelines for the team who 'triage' Ethos messages have been revised to ensure only feedback that will promote reflection is passed on. Early evidence suggests Ethos has positively impacted staff, although evaluation is ongoing. The COVID-19 pandemic has required some adaptations to the program.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Professional Misconduct
  • Respect*
  • Social Responsibility*