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Healing after harm, a restorative approach to incidents, Jo Wailling, RN, The Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand – Thursday 25 February 2021

By 14th February 2022August 23rd, 2023Previous Seminars


In 2002, the renowned patient safety advocate and former president of the Institute of Health Improvement, Sir Don Berwick, wrote of what he had learned about patient safety in his career. Perhaps Berwick’s most important insight was that that safety is fundamentally about people. Safety emerges from the unique encounter between the people who need services and those entrusted to deliver them.

Similarly, when incidents occur, people are harmed, and their relationships affected. If such harm is to be adequately addressed and safety enhanced, then wellbeing must be restored, and relationships rebuilt. This means that what happens after an incident is of equal importance to understanding how or why it occurred. It also means that safety needs to be conceived in a relational as well as a regulatory framework, with resilience being understood as the interplay between both elements.

While restorative justice is a nascent area of development in healthcare systems, as a distinctively relational and dialogical approach to preventing and responding to harm, the approach has the potential to fill an important gap in our current understandings of safety. This seminar will explore the potential of restorative philosophy and the associated practices in healthcare settings using examples from practice and research to illustrate the possibilities. The session will also discuss the evaluation of a major and internationally unprecedented project, which employed a restorative approach to address the harm caused to patients and professionals by the use of surgical mesh in New Zealand.


Jo is a Registered Nurse, Research Fellow and Facilitator with the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She worked as a registered nurse in NHS critical care settings for thirteen years before moving to NZ and has over twenty years’ experience in clinical, professional, and government advisory roles. Jo leads the Chairs collaborations with health sector partners. A notable project is New Zealand’s restorative inquiry into harm from surgical mesh and she chairs a national collaborative for restorative approaches in healthcare. She is actively involved in international research collaborations and networks that promote restorative responses and resilient healthcare. Jo applies and researches restorative responses to harm from adverse events, moral injury, bullying and harassment and organisational culture. Her PhD is critically examining New Zealand’s restorative approach to surgical mesh harm within the context of the health system.