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Research on the sexual harassment of nurses

2021 Research from Unison and the Nursing Times

The work of Debbie Dougherty and Tammy McGuire on the Sexual Harrassment of Nursing

Budget Van Insurance 2006 survey of 1818 people

Research in 2021 between Unison and the Nursing Times. Medscape summarized it:

"Widespread sexual harassment in the health and care workplace, with 60% of nurses saying they'd been sexually harassed by colleagues or patients."

"More than 2300 nurses responded to the poll, 88% women, and 11% men."

"Verbal harassment was most common with 56% of nurses reporting inappropriate jokes, comments about their appearance, invitations on a date, or questions about their private lives.

Incidents were experienced 'often' by 11%, and ‘occasionally’ for 21%."

"Harassment by patients was reported by 58%, and 26% had been harassed by medical colleagues, 24% by nursing colleagues, and 19% by family and friends of patients."

Physical harassment, such as groping, was reported by 37%. "Sixty-two percent of female respondents encountered harassment, as did 51% of males."

Assorted interviews (qualitative research of sorts) by Megan Ford (2021, June). "Nurses speak out on experiencing sexual harassment" in the Nursing Times. Retrieved July 21, 2021.

Excerpts: "She recalled an incident when she visited a patient’s home and, after washing her hands, stepped out of the bathroom to see him laying naked on his bed with an erection. She quickly left and reported it to the GP. The surgery’s reaction was one of ‘oh, well we’ll make a note that you shouldn’t go there alone’ but no one recommended she report it to the police. On reflection, Ms Keen added: "I think I would have possibly been told it was unprofessional to report a patient." She described another time when a patient had been waiting for her in bed while watching pornography, and instances working on a ward when frequently she had been grabbed inappropriately by a visiting vicar. However, typically, when reporting this, she was met with the attitude from her seniors that she should "just get on with it" and "deal with it"."

The work of Debbie Dougherty and Tammy McGuire on the Sexual Harrassment of Nursing

Debbie Dougherty and Tammy McGuire, "Sexual harassment of nurses by patients: Competing tensions of identity and control."

One hundred percent of nurses in this study report being sexually harrassed. Interview of 29 (25 female, 4 male) nurses from California, Colorado, Missouri, and Florida, ranged in ages from 22 to 88, asked to describe inappropriate sexual behavior from patients, and whether it was sexual harassment "because nurses do not always label their experiences as sexual harassment since the frequency of sexual harassment in the health care setting has made it normative and therefore invisible." Includes analysis of nurses' description of their roles and their strategies for dealing with patients who sexually harass them or exhibit sexually inappropriate behavior.

Debbie S. Dougherty , Elizabeth A. Baiocchi-Wagner & Tammy McGuire (2011) Managing Sexual Harassment Through Enacted Stereotypes: An Intergroup Perspective, Western Journal of Communication, 75(3), 259-281, doi: 10.1080/10570314.2011.571654.

Tammy McGuire, Debbie Dougherty, University of Missouri–Columbia & Joshua Atkinson, Syracuse University "Paradoxing the dialectic: The impact of patients' sexual harassment in the discursive construction of nurses' caregiving roles," Management Communication Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 3, February 2006, 416-450, doi: 10.1177/0893318905280879

Sexual fantasies about nurses

In 2006, Budget Van Insurance surveyed 1818 people and found that survey questioned 1818 adults on their sexual fantasies. Men fantasized about nurses more than any other profession. The survey found that 54% of men fantasize about naughty nurses. See reporting on the study.

Also see our FAQ:

Sexually harassed by your patients? Advance for Nurses posed this question to us:
Q: A patient routinely makes rude, sexually charged comments as I provide basic hygiene and attend to his catheter. How should I respond, given that patients are not like peers or subordinates where reprimands, demotions and firings, can be enacted?

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Last updated July 21, 2021

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