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.
All faculty, staff physicians, postdoctoral fellows and staff of the Medical College of Wisconsin can use the Ombuds Office.