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Highlights |  Building an inclusive environment 

  • The Continuous Professional Improvement Committee recently updated the UW Medicine Policy on Professional Conduct with the help of broad community input. 
  • The committee used the UW Medicine Office of Healthcare Equity Impact tool to help revise the policy. 
  • The committee made the policy updates to reflect standards we strive for in our community across UW Medicine and to acknowledge the historical context of professionalism in medicine and the challenges in evaluation of “professionalism” due to racism, sexism and other forms of bias. 

In May of 2009, UW Medicine implemented the first iteration of the Policy on Professional ConductThe Continuous Professionalism Improvement Committee (CPI) began as a UW School of Medicine standing faculty committee that expanded to include staff (e.g., nursing, administration, human resources), students and trainees for the revisions of the Policy on Professional Conduct in 2020-2021.  This year, the committee was dedicated to evaluating the policy with an anti-racist lens. To do this, they used the Equity Impact Tool, a tool developed by the Office of Healthcare Equity to evaluate the harmful history of the exclusive narrative around professionalism in medicine.  

What is the Continuous Professionalism Improvement Committee?

The CPI committee is one of four UW Medicine standing faculty committees. It has expanded to include representation across UW Medicine for the Policy on Professional Conduct revisions to engage our large diverse community in the conversation about professionalism. This includes the 31 departments in the UW School of Medicine.

“It was critical to do outreach across the community to have representation and perspectives from as many voices as possible within this working committee,” says Giana Davidson, MD, MPHassistant dean for Professionalism. 

In addition to the extended outreach, the CPI committee used the UW Medicine Equity Impact tool during the review process of the updated Professional Conduct Policy to help reflect on the potential unintentional consequences of the policy. It also helped identify missing perspectives within the committee discussions and provided an opportunity to seek additional input and broaden outreach during the revision process.

What is the Equity Impact Tool?

The Equity Impact tool was developed by the Office of Healthcare Equity. Departments are encouraged to use this tool as one part of their continued efforts towards an anti-racist, equitable community.

Pat Dawson, MD, was instrumental in the first version of the Equity Impact Tool, a legacy that has greatly impacted the UW Medicine community through her advocacy in gender, racial and healthcare equity.

Using this tool, the CPI committee worked to decentralize influences of white supremacy within the policy, and the trickle-down effects it can have within the larger community. 

“Our organization as a whole is trying to better focus on discrimination and bias,” says Davidson. “The problem around policy is in the implementation, and that’s often outside of the scope of the people creating the policy. The tool was essential for focusing on the potential harmful impacts of the policy, especially for those who have been or are currently minoritized in medicine, healthcare, and sciencefor helping us identify perspectives we may be missing, and helped identify places in which the policy could be improved.”

What updates were made to the policy?

The updated UW Medicine Policy on Professional Conduct begins as follows:

UW Medicine is committed to high standards of professionalism in patient care, research and education, and related activities that support them among our faculty, staff, trainees and students. We expect our community to maintain these standards while present on campus or during travel representing UW Medicine. Professionalism is integral to our mission of improving health and includes demonstrating excellence, equity, respect, integrity, compassion, altruism, accountability, honesty and service in all endeavors and creating an environment supportive of diversity in ideas, perspectives, and experiences. All individuals in our UW Medicine community are responsible for creating an inclusive environment where every person is valued and honored.

Davidson describes this updated policy as a living document, acknowledging that the work is ongoing. 

“Our language around professionalism has changed and will continue to change over time,” says Davidson. “We know professionalism has been weaponized and there is not agreement on a definition for professionalism or what professional conduct meansBut just changing the words in this policy won’t itself change our culture. We need to continue to work to change the culture to one that is more inclusive for our community of patients, learners, staff, and faculty to thrive.”

What are the impacts of the updated policy?

Overall, the CPI committee hopes the updated policy will continue building on the values set for the UW Medicine community. 

“We are accountable to each other,” says Davidson. “There needs to be intent to disrupt oppressive systems or practices and to work towards and more inclusive environment supportive of our diversity in ideas, perspectives, and experiences.”