For the past several months, many Americans have been reminded of the importance of the nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers who support us after injury and disease.
Unfortunately, though, the medical needs of patients are not the only challenge faced by people in the healthcare industry. Sexual harassment is an all-too-common problem in our healthcare system, and this toxic environment can impact doctors, nurses and their patients alike.
Harassment in healthcare settings is very common.
Scientific American notes that sexual harassment and discrimination is a common feature of our healthcare system. As many as half of female medical students experience harassment while training as doctors, and women are much more likely to see serious penalties for bad patient outcomes. This can make it difficult for doctors at all stages of their careers to maintain the high-quality care their patients need.
Nurses also suffer from harassment. In addition to harassment experienced at the hands of coworkers, their increased responsibility for the daily care of patients means that 71% of nurses experience sexual harassment from patients.
This harassment can have a wide-reaching impact.
A toxic work environment caused by sexual harassment can make it difficult for victims to feel safe in their workplace or to carry out their daily work. This can lead to:
- Lack of communication, whether from stress or from difficulties interacting with a harasser
- Distracted healthcare providers which can lead to medical errors
- Burnout among doctors or nurses
These challenges do not just impact victims of harassment, however. Distracted nurses can easily miss symptoms or fail to keep accurate notes. Failure to communicate can lead to ineffective care, missed or doubled medication doses and other dangerous malpractice issues. These issues can limit the effectiveness of patient care and put medical professionals at risk of losing their license.
Because of the impact that harassment in our healthcare system can have, it is important that victims speak up when harassment occurs. By reporting these issues and taking legal action when necessary, they can defend their rights, prevent the mistreatment of future doctors and nurses and protect their patients’ health.