Long hours. Fractured sleep. Steep learning curves. Working in the medical profession is hard, but it’s even harder for women. Female medical residents, nurses, and physicians encounter gender bias, endure sexual harassment, and face a greater risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression than their male counterparts. In the face of a growing and aging population, and the very real threat of a shortage of doctors, healthcare organizations can’t afford to lose any dedicated professionals due to a toxic work culture.
The healthcare industry disadvantages women at every stage of their careers, causing many to step back or down from their roles or leave the industry entirely. Aside from the obvious issues associated with mistreatment of and discrimination—no person should have to endure harassment or fear for their personal safety when doing their job—not remedying these dysfunctional behaviors won’t just ultimately drive women from healthcare, but it will also negatively impact patient outcomes.
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To combat this, women in the medical field have banded together and are now speaking out as part of Time’s Up Healthcare, an initiative to curb sexual harassment and gender inequity in medicine, which officially launched on March 1, 2019.
“You want to adapt to the culture and climate, and you want to succeed. That means you’re going to ignore the pat on the butt, the hand on the leg, and the comments — so many comments — about one’s breasts and sex life, one’s fertility plans, and loss of virginity. It’s like the locker room, but it’s the halls of medicine,” Jane van Dis, MD, Ob/Gyn, Ob Hospitalist, and one of the steering committee members of Time’s Up Healthcare told InStyle.
The healthcare field needs to address these issues for the mental health of female employees: female doctors have double the rates of burnout as their male colleagues, and have at 2.5 to 4 times the rate of the general population.
“Many who have experienced harassment and abuse will demonstrate such behaviors as post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and lessened ability to make decisions,” Susan Strauss, registered nurse and harassment and bullying consultant in Burnsville, Minnesota, said in the the 2018 Sexual Harassment of Physicians report. “Many victims question their self-worth and ask, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’”
Fortunately, with the advent of tools like STOPit, empowering healthcare staff to report sexual harassment and misconduct is simple. It’s easy to implement safe, confidential reporting and it’s easy to administer with STOPit’s best-in-class incident management system. In less than an hour, assigned staff can be up and running on STOPit Admin, with an intuitive, customizable dashboard and user experience that makes incident management and reporting extremely manageable in the context of an already high-pressure work environment.