Response Strategies for Bystanders

We can work together as an interdisciplinary group to better support each another as clinical staff and learners when we witness unprofessional interactions or behavior in the clinical learning and working environment. Here are some suggestions:


Directly intervene and address the situation in the moment. Ask the person to clarify their statement or action.

  • Question directly: “What did you mean when you said…?”
  • Assume the best: “I know you didn’t really mean that, but it came across this way...”
  • Call someone in: “Can we talk about what just happened?”
  • Call someone out: “That’s not cool. We have to do better.”
  • Call out jokes: “I know you think it’s just a joke, but I don’t think it’s that funny.”
  • Be honest: “The truth is, what you just said makes me uncomfortable.”
  • Be curious: “I wonder if we could provide better care if we...?”


Cause a distraction to stop the offensive conduct.

  • Interrupt and start conversation with the person being offended.


Speak to a supervisor to discuss appropriate next steps, or ask them to address the situation.

  • “What they said is not an appropriate way to interact with our team members. As the attending physician or charge nurse, will you speak to them?”


Reflect on the moment and support one another. This is key!

  • “Are you ok? I saw that, and I’m sorry I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I wanted to check in with you.”
  • “I saw that, and I’m sorry that it happened again; let’s huddle with the clinical team to decide on what to do next.”


Report incident using the ZSFG SAFE reporting system. Other reporting mechanisms for UCSF faculty, learners, and staff.