Sexual Harassment in Nursing

sex-harassOver the last few years, I’ve heard numerous stories vis-à-vis sexual harassment (SH); regrettably, I’ve fallen victim to it and have seen it happen.

And when it does occur, I’m always amazed at the brazenness and stupidity of the perpetrator; after all, it doesn’t take someone with a genius IQ to understand how inappropriate SH is anywhere, let alone the work place.

As a profession, we’ve experienced a lot of SH over the last couple centuries.

The historical and cultural healthcare paradigm served as a perfect conduit for sexual harassment.  I don’t need to give you a history lesson, you already know the story: physicians wielded power and we submitted to it.

This power differential bred inappropriate behavior, ranging from verbal harassment to sexual assault.

And, amazingly, it still happens.   A few years ago, I watched a colleague hug and lick a fellow clinician’s neck.

I was astonished, almost speechless.

After my friend rubbed alcohol all over her neck, she promptly notified our supervisor, who then promptly notified HR; and as you can imagine, it didn’t turn out well for the perpetrator.

We seldom hear about women sexually harassing men, but I’ve experienced it.

Over the years, I’ve been ogled and subjected to whistling and inappropriate jokes.

I’ve had co-workers slap, pinch, and snap shots of my hindquarters while working.  And, I’ve been present when my female coworkers use the nurse’s lounge like men use the locker room.

All in all, I don’t think we can stop SH; but, I do think we can thwart it.

At times, I think we get too comfortable while working; we sometimes forget where we are and who we’re with; and, I think this can lead to disaster; when we get too comfortable, we let our guard down; and when we let our guard down, we’re more likely to act inappropriately and do something stupid.

In short, if you witness your friend and/or colleague acting inappropriate or crude at work, let them know it – preferably before they get fired.

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