New report finds more than a fifth of doctors sexually harassed on the job

New report finds more than a fifth of doctors sexually harassed on the job

A new report investigating sexual harassment amongst doctors in the UK, conducted by Medscape, has found that 1 in 5 doctors (21%) have either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace within the last three years

Of the more than 1,300 doctors responding to the survey, 17% said they had been sexually harassed by a patient. A smaller number said they had been sexually harassed by a colleague (3%). Of those, three quarters (76%) said the harassment came from another doctor, and one in 10 cited harassment from a nurse.

The survey examined the current state of sexual misconduct in healthcare by asking about specific harassment behaviour doctors had experienced or witnessed in the past three years, where it occurred, how they responded, and how it affected them. They were also asked if they had ever been accused of sexual misconduct.

The most common types of harassment reported by survey respondents from colleagues included deliberately infringing on personal space/standing too close; unwanted groping, hugging, patting, or other physical contact and sexual comments about body parts, leering or sexually looking at body parts. Regarding harassment from patients, the most common type was patients acting in an overtly sexual manner (53%), asking the doctor on a date (29%) or trying to grope or rub against the doctor (24%).

Dr Rob Hicks, GP and co-author of the report, said "The healthcare clinical setting is often a high pressure environment, with doctors increasingly reporting a great deal of stress. Doctors have a right to a safe workplace, yet this report shows that many are still experiencing or witnessing unacceptable behaviour by colleagues and by patients."

The impact of sexual harassment is significant, with 81% of all doctors surveyed agreeing that it negatively impacts patient care. Yet more than half of those (56%) who experienced sexual harassment did not report it.

Medscape's Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019 uncovered a number of additional key findings:

Seniority can play a role

  • 43% of all doctors surveyed believed that successful or senior staff were more likely to be granted greater leeway over inappropriate conduct
  • More than half (56%) of doctors experiencing harassment had been harassed by a colleague in a superior position

Doctors harassed by patients is more prevalent in certain specialities:

  • 25% were in general surgery, 23% were in psychiatry, 23% were in emergency medicine, 22% were in general practice and 20% were in ophthalmology

Specialities which saw the highest percentage of doctors harassed by other doctors:

  • 12% were in anaesthetics, 10% were in general surgery, 7% were in psychiatry and 5% were in plastic/cosmetic surgery

The personal and professional impact for doctors experiencing harassment is significant:

  • Around 40% adopted negative behaviours to cope such as self-imposed isolation, binge eating, drinking alcohol or spending more time sleeping
  • Almost half (49%) avoided working with specific colleagues and more than a quarter (29%) had thoughts about quitting their job

"This research has exposed some very distressing cases, with far reaching effects for the individual affected and the patients under their care. It takes courage to report sexual harassment but in order to eliminate this scourge for good it's vital that those affected report any incidents, and that senior management support their staff and investigate to the fullest extent," Dr Hicks concluded.

Click here for the full report

About the survey

Medscape UK conducted a survey of more than 1,300 UK physicians, with respondents broken down as follows (1,378 in total):

  • Doctors 1,316
  • Medical Student 39
  • Medical Academic 22
  • Physician Assistant 18

Under the UK's Equality Act, sexual harassment is either meant to, or has the effect of violating one's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Individuals have their own perceptions about what defines sexual harassment or abuse. To make sure that respondents were all on the same page about definitions, the survey asked about specific behaviours, namely:

  • Unwanted sexual text messages/emails
  • Comments about anatomy/body parts
  • Propositions to engage in sexual activity
  • Being asked repeatedly for a date
  • Offer of a promotion in exchange for a sexual favour
  • Threats of punishment for refusal of sexual favour
  • Deliberately infringing on body space
  • Unwanted groping/hugging/physical contact
  • Deliberate fondling of self
  • Grabbing body parts
  • Rape
Published: by Radio NewsHub
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