Sexual Harassment in the Work Place of Healthcare Professionals
Sexual harassment is unwanted, unwelcome or unsolicited sexual behavior, sexual advances or sexual favors (Gold, 2008). It includes things like whistling at someone, asking them questions about their sex life, inappropriate touching, sexual comments, referring to a woman as babe, rape(attempted or actual), unwanted cornering or sexual looks, just to name a few.
There is widespread sexual harassment in various work places, but even more so and in the healthcare profession. Quality healthcare is the backbone of a people. The country and the world at large are in a better position of achieving its vision and goals if its citizens are in good health. The rising cases of sexual harassment in healthcare facilities threaten the realization of quality healthcare for all. This creates a tense working atmosphere for everyone involved right from the janitor to the say, Chief Orthopedic surgeon.
Sexual harassment in a healthcare facility occurs in a variety of ways. First, it exists between nurses and patients. Nursing is not only associated with women as it was before. Today, we also have a number of male nurses. Both women and men are victims of unwanted sexual advances; however, women are the most likely targets of such behavior. A patient may harass a nurse by pulling her hair as she adjusts his IV bottle, they may also sexually harass a nurse by threatening them with rape when they refuse to turn up the volume of the television set. When a patient harasses a nurse, they withdraw from them completely, only giving medical essentials but totally withholding emotional and supportive care.
Reports of sexual harassment on female nurses have been on the rise globally. In Turkey, sixty-three percent of nurses have filed sexual harassment reports while seventy percent of nurses in The UK have done the same. The number goes even higher in Israel with ninety one percent of nurses filing sexual harassment reports while in Canada, fifty three percent of nurses have followed suit. In America, between sixteen and seventy-six percent of nurses have reported cases of sexual harassment (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 2013). With the important role nurses play in healthcare, thesis statistics are disturbing, to say the least. Nurses support both doctors and patients. They provide doctors with everything they need to treat patients; seldom can a doctor survive without a nurse. Nurses also attend to patients, by giving them medicine and being there for them emotionally. Therefore, the sexual harassment of a nurse leads to disruption of the deliverance of safe and quality healthcare. When they are sexually harassed, nurses get frustrated, anxious, depressed, and they may even experience posttraumatic stress. These negative effects lead to loss of concentration at work. They spend less time responding to the patients’ needs, and it negatively affects the relationship between patients and the staff.
Another form of sexual harassment in the workplace exists between medical trainees and their supervisors. Many students have reported different forms of sexual harassment by their supervisors. A study conducted to prove that showed that based on s survey, five hundred and eighty-fourth year medical students reported incidences of sexual harassment. Another study, based on a survey of seventy-five third year students, revealed more cases of sexual harassment (Marshall, 2001). Some forms of sexual harassment that the student experience is sexual discrimination, sexist comments, unwanted sexual gestures, denied opportunities, sexual advances, scathing rumors and the exchange of rewards for sexual favors. Sexual harassment by a supervisor is harmful to the medical trainee and to a medical profession itself. It greatly interferes with a student’s academic work; they become depressed, stressed, angry, frustrated, and, therefore, not able to give their academics the attention it deserves. Students who decline sexual advances from their educators are also negatively affect their academics because the educator may look for ways to frustrate them as some pay back. The hostile environment created by the sexual harassment of students by their educators also jeopardizes patient care.
Sexual harassment in healthcare facilities also exists between patients and the staff. A study on the sexual abuse on patients showed that eighty percent of them were adult women, while children below the age of fourteen accounted for nine percent (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011). This is unacceptable. People go to a healthcare facility to receive treatments for their ailments, to leave feeling better than when they went in, not feeling worse. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the case.
Healthcare professionals sometimes take advantage of the vulnerability of patients. They abuse the trust patients have bestowed on them. Some of these professionals sexually harass their patients by touching them inappropriately, winking at them, and asking questions about their private life and patients have reported cases of attempted rape. It is the responsibility of a doctor or a professional in charge to treat a patient with respect and utmost care. No form of sexual relationship should exist between a healthcare practitioner and his patient because it could easily lead to abuse. Sexual harassment of children is disturbing, and it is a huge betrayal to the parents. Sexual harassment on patients has adverse effects on healthcare because people may eventually lose faith in the system. They may prefer to self-medicate, which is usually not the safest option (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011).
Unwanted sexual advances may exist among the healthcare professionals themselves. A doctor may be sexually harassing his nurses; a nurse may be sexually abusing another, or a physician may be overly friendly to his colleagues in a way that makes them uncomfortable. As earlier mentioned, these experiences negatively affect the workplace environment. The healthcare provided will be of low quality and the patient who suffers. It also leads to strained relationships between the staff. This injures moral and the individual wellbeing of the staff.
In conclusion, all healthcare professionals should act responsibly towards each other and their patients to reduce and eventually, put an end to sexual harassment. They should also educate their patients on the boundaries they should observe when dealing with nurses and other staff. These greatly contribute to the reduction of sexual harassment cases.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2013). Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. Opinions on Ethics and Professionalism, 8.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse by Health Care Providers. Pediatrics, 1.
Gold, L. H. (2008). Sexual Harassment: Psychiatric Assessment in Employment Litigation. New York: American Psychiatric Pub.
Marshall, A.-M. (2001). Confronting Sexual Harassment: the Law and Politics of Everyday Life. London: Ashgate.