Glossary*

Independence
The Medical College of Wisconsin Office of the Ombuds is independent from other offices at the College, including Human Resources/Affirmative Action, Faculty Affairs and Compliance.  Faculty, staff physicians, postdoctoral fellows and staff who are contemplating raising concerns to those Offices may wish to consult the Ombuds to consider their choices and weigh options.   However, such individuals should keep in mind the time frames set forth in College policies; a consultation with the Ombuds does not extend these deadlines.

The Ombuds reports directly to the President of the Medical College of Wisconsin – reflecting the importance of the roles and responsibilities of the Ombuds Office.

Neutrality/Impartiality
The Medical College of Wisconsin Ombuds – as a designated neutral – remains unaligned and impartial.  The Ombuds does not engage in any situation which could create a conflict of interest nor will the Ombuds or any member of the Ombuds staff serve as an advocate for any party to a dispute – including management.  The Ombuds, however, will advocate for fair processes and fair administration of those processes by the institution.  When making recommendations, the Ombuds is responsible for suggesting actions or policies that will be as equitable as possible for all parties involved.   

Confidentiality
For those seeking assistance, the Medical College of Wisconsin Office of the Ombuds holds communications in strictest confidence.  The Ombuds and office staff will not identify people with whom they may have spoken or disclose an individual’s concerns or specific issue without explicit approval from that person.  The exceptions to this pledge of confidentiality are when the Ombuds determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm or if the Ombuds is legally compelled to report the situation.

Informality
The Medical College of Wisconsin Office of the Ombuds provides an informal resource to the institutional community and does not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure related to concerns brought to its attention.  The Office of the Ombuds keeps no official records with personal identifying information and is not authorized to receive formal notice to the College, such as a notice of a claim against the College.

An Ombuds functions on an informal and off-the-record basis by such means as listening to visitors or callers, providing and receiving information, identifying and reframing issues, developing a range of responsible options, and — with permission given to the Ombuds in the course of discussions and at the Ombuds’ discretion — making informal inquiries.

Ombuds
The Ombuds shall be truthful and act with integrity, shall foster respect for all members of the organization he or she serves and shall promote procedural fairness in the content and administration of those organizations’ practices, processes, and policies.

The name “ombudsman” comes from Swedish and literally means “representative.”  At the most fundamental level, an ombuds is one who assists individuals and groups in the resolution of conflicts or concerns.  There are a number of different titles or names for this position, including: “ombudsman,” “ombudsperson” or “ombuds”.  The Medical College of Wisconsin has chosen to use the gender-neutral term “Ombuds” to reflect our cultural sensitivity and commitment to diversity.  

Ombuds work in all types of organizations, including government agencies, colleges and universities, corporations, hospitals and other medical facilities and news organizations.  The organizational ombuds is defined as a designated neutral who is appointed or employed by an organization to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns of employees, managers, students and, sometimes, external clients of the organization.  The primary duties of an organizational ombuds are to work with individuals and groups in an organization to explore and assist them in determining options to help resolve conflicts, problematic issues or concerns; and to bring systemic concerns to the attention of the organization for resolution.

An organizational ombuds operates in a manner to preserve the confidentiality of those seeking services, maintains a neutral/impartial position with respect to the concerns raised, works at an informal level of the organizational system and is independent of formal organizational structures.  

The most important skills of an effective ombuds include active listening, communicating successfully with a diverse range of people, remaining nonjudgmental, having the courage to speak up and address problems at higher levels within an organization, problem solving and analytical ability and conflict resolution skills.

*Adapted from the Standards of Practice — Glossary and Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association.

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Page Updated 11/03/2014
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