Many industries, such as film and finance, are notorious for pervasive sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement arose from the numerous allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein after all. Sadly, a Medscape report shows that the healthcare industry is not immune from this physically and psychologically damaging behavior. One out of ten of all healthcare clinicians reported experiencing sexual harassment within the past three years.
The surveyed group includes nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. The reported harassment included:
- Encroaching on physical space (55% of respondents)
- Sexual comments or sexually looking at the victim’s body (52%)
- Unwanted touching (46%)
- Forced sexual contact or rape (3%)
Female orthopedic surgeons experience elevated levels of harassment
A Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (CORR) survey shows that respondents in orthopedic surgery reported some of the highest levels of harassment.
More than two-thirds of female orthopedic surgery residents responded that they had suffered harassment. Seventy percent of the victims were harassed by male residents; forty percent said they were harassed by attending male surgeons.
More than half of incidents go unreported
Of the female orthopedic surgeons who suffered sexual harassment, only fifteen reported the incident. Similarly, more than half of the victims of the Medscape report (55%) took no action after they were harassed. 78% reported not responding to their harasser.
Victims stated that they feared retaliation from their harasser or their employer if they spoke out about the harassment. Others were concerned that they would be accused of overreacting, that no action would be taken or that they would not be believed.
These reports should serve as a serious wake up call to the healthcare industry. It is not enough to operate at the current status quo. Medical institutions across the country must take a close look at what their employees are experiencing and look for opportunities to improve their reality. In addition to being ethically unacceptable, sexual harassment can cause serious mental health concerns, including posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. America’s healthcare workers, who have been our brave heroes in our fight against the pandemic, deserve better.