Despite having policies against it, the workplace sees far too many incidents of sexual harassment, many of which go unreported. As a nurse, you are probably concerned about harassment from two fronts: your co-workers and your patients. Many nurses admit that most of them go through sexual harassment at some point in their career, but that doesn’t mean this behavior is acceptable or should be tolerated.
These are six steps every nurse should follow if sexually harassed at work:
1. If you are comfortable doing so, directly tell the harasser to stop.
If you are comfortable speaking with the harasser, be stern and direct, telling them that their behavior isn’t appropriate. Make it clear that they need to stop. If they persist in their behavior, tell them you will report them if they continue or if it happens again in the future.
2. Document what happened in detail.
As soon as you can, while the incident is still fresh in your memory, write down what happened with as much detail as possible. Record what time the harassment occurred, where you were, who was involved, and who was nearby that may have seen/heard the incident.
3. Look up your company’s policy on sexual harassment.
Your employer should have policies in place about how to handle harassment. Familiarize yourself with what steps you should take next and what your company’s policy is about incidents like this.
4. Report the harassment to your supervisor or the company.
Your company policy may tell you where to report harassment, but you should also inform your supervisor about what happened. They should be able to advise you with next steps in the process and make sure you feel safe in your workplace.
5. If your harasser is a patient, ask about other options to keep your environment comfortable.
You should still follow the above steps in any instance of harassment, but if you have been harassed by one of your patients, you should have additional options to make you feel safer at work. Nurses can often:
• Have a second nurse in the room
• Refuse care to that particular patient
• Ask to have the patient transferred to another floor
Ask your supervisor about these options if a patient is harassing you.
6. If your employer fails to protect you, seek external assistance.
If you follow the above procedures and your employer has not ensured your protection and safety in the workplace, call an attorney and ask about your options. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work.