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The active bystander training reflections

The active bystander training


Reflections of a black Christian woman GP human being.


People matter; and at the core of our individual experiences is that desire to know we are seen, accepted for who we are and valued for our contribution. But in an increasingly diverse and precarious society riddled with identity politics, never has this been harder to achieve. Longstanding issues of harassment, bullying, discrimination, and racism have been exposing the widening cracks in our society as highlighted by the recent #MeToo, BLM movement and other notable cases.


Fresh in mind and more specific to healthcare is how a First5 GP left Lincolnshire due to a racially motivated attack[1] and the bomb scare which led to the evacuation of a doctors’ surgery[2]. It’s acknowledged that healthcare staff are facing increasing abuse from the public[3] and the LMC have risen to the challenge of addressing these issues by organising the active bystander training and putting in place some resources to equip us all.


Attending the September bystander training is one of the most useful things I have done recently for my personal development. As a person who embodies many 'protected characteristics', I am all too familiar with issues of discrimination and always adjusting in order to integrate or simply fit in. Almost daily, I meet a patient who asks, ‘where are you really from?’ and occasionally, ‘are you a qualified doctor?’ I have had to grow a thick skin and most times we spin the conversation into a meaningful dialogue that builds rapport but sometimes one wishes it just didn’t matter! No doubt I have benefited from the support of colleagues and patients, who have the courage to be kind, see all people as equals and challenge racism when they witness it. I have seen how diversity can indeed enrich the workplace with the correct relational dynamics and virtues in place. We can all flourish when we are included, supported and no doubt this positively impacts on patient care too. The bystander training emphasises this concept of ‘allyship’ which is key to shaping a culture of civility.


If we escape the challenge of being offenders, we will most certainly find ourselves in situations where we might witness micro-aggressions and possibly feel morally compelled to tackle them or indeed be expected to use our privilege and position to facilitate a better social experience/outcome for another. This may initially be a daunting prospect, but the bystander training is full of practical tips to help us know what to do[4]. We must not act alone; we must learn how to disrupt a toxic social situation, speak up and assertively confront harassers. Arguably, the responsibility of creating safer workplaces and building an inclusive society lies with everyone and we all have a part to play.


[1] GP ‘nearly lost his sight’ in a racially motivated attack. Available from: URL:



[2] Doctors' surgeries evacuated as bomb disposal experts examine suspicious package placed under car in Lincoln. https://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/news/lincoln-news/doctors-surgery-evacuated-bomb-disposal-5779048


[4] Bystander tips and strategies. NSVRC

So, I urge everyone to sign up for the interactive LMC bystander session in October and/or catch up with the recordings. At the very least, we all need to continually reflect on our individual and collective experiences in order to keep learning how we can be better to do better.


Dr Von Shuro

GP principal Spilsby surgery

Publicity and social media lead, First5 Lincolnshire

MBBS5 St George’s University of London

Medical law and ethics, Kings College London