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Sexual harassment a serious problem for California nurses

In a field dominated by women, nurses are particularly susceptible to sexual harassment in the workplace. This is especially true considering that many nurses fail to report incidents of harassment, no matter who was at fault.

Many nurses have developed a thick skin, and are used to the “sexy nurse” stereotypes that doctors, patients and other nurses may impose on them. But many times, the comments or flirtatious winks that result could lead to more serious sexual harassment incidents for nurses.

Harassment by supervisors and doctors

One of the most common forms of sexual harassment experienced by nurses comes from their superiors – the doctors. Male physicians are among the most notorious perpetrators of inappropriate sexual conduct in the medical setting, and are often the focus in the media when it comes to nursing-related sexual harassment.

Yet, too many hospitals overlook harassment done by their most accomplished physicians and doctors, even when reported.

Harassment by co-workers and other nurses

Even though upwards of 90 percent of nurses are female, nurses still experience sexual harassment from their co-workers and colleagues. And while there are fewer male nurses, they may often be the victim of these incidents. What’s worse – when a male is harassed in the workplace, they may be even less likely to raise the issue to their employer.

Harassment by patients and visitors

The sexualization of nurses in the media has mostly affected this form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Conduct can range from jokes and offensive comments to even violence, especially when mental illness is involved.

While there are federal and state protections in place for nurses who have experienced harassment from patients, hospitals may take little action, even when these incidents are reported.

How we can hold hospitals accountable

Many nurses aren’t aware that their employers are often responsible for sexual harassment by a patient or visitor. One of the first steps to holding hospitals accountable for these incidents is to report each and every one, so employers will take further steps to protect their nurses and maintain a safe work environment.

Further steps need to be taken to cut down on harassment by doctors and other nurses as well. Again, nurses need to continue reporting these incidents. But beyond that, if management fails to remedy the problem, nurses should take immediate legal action to hold them accountable. Otherwise, the behavior will only continue, and may hurt even more nurses in the future.

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