Sexual Harassment of Nurses by Patients, Co-Workers Examined
The Detroit Free Press on Friday examined the issue of nurses who are sexually harassed by patients and co-workers. According to a 1982 survey of nurses cited by the American Nurses Association, 60% of respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, in large part from patients. "I suspect that if you ask nurses if they've been harassed by patients, a majority would say yes," Belinda Heimericks, executive director of the Missouri Nurses Association, said, adding, "Nearly every nurse will run into it at some time in their career."
A separate survey that included interviews with 29 nurses in four states finds that respondents said they often "crack jokes or sternly reject" sexual advances from patients but become "distressed" by sexual harassment from co-workers. The survey -- which was conducted by Debbie Dougherty, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and will appear in the spring issue of Management Communication Quarterly -- also finds that the emotional support provided by respondents to patients who sexually harass them decreases.
"It probably makes the relationship a little more tense because there is a feeling of uncomfortableness between the nurse and patient," Heimericks said. Scotty Shively, an employment and health attorney in Arkansas, said that the medical and legal obligations nurses have for patients make the issue of sexual harassment "complex." Some hospitals have administrators discuss the issue with patients who sexually harass nurses and have such patients transferred in some cases (Stafford, Detroit Free Press, 12/16).