Stopping Sexual Harassment In Healthcare & Inspiring Speak Up Cultures

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.

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is April: Stay Informed, Stay Vigilant and Take Action to Combat Sexual Assault

The momentum of movements like Me Too and Time’s Up is causing society to make a major shift in how we discuss and react to sexual violence, as well as how sexual assaults are identified, reported, and prevented. And there is no time is better to lead and participate in these discussions than now, since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time when survivors and advocacy groups work to raise awareness surrounding the pervasive issue of sexual violence.

And the prevalence of sexual assault can be shocking.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC):

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
  • 90% of college sexual assault victims don’t report the assault.
  • Rape is the most underreported crime: 63% of cases are never reported to police.

These statistics make it clear that sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Moreover, in addition to immediate costs such as medical expenses and missed wages, sexual assault can have devastating long-term impacts like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

What’s not as clear, as evidenced by a growing body of research, is how victims can safely reach out to report incidents and ask for help. Anecdotal and peer-reviewed research both confirm that victims of sexual assault, rape, or sexual abuse almost unanimously report that it is often confusing to know where to turn to report an incident — and it’s always intimidating.

Statistics and surveys are also showing that while the #MeToo movement may be encouraging more victims feel to come forward, victims and witnesses are not reporting these attacks using traditional methods. Survivors have given the following reasons for not reporting a sexual assault:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Scared of hostile treatment by the authorities
  • Uncertain that authorities would consider the incident serious enough
  • Did not want family or friends to know about it
  • Didn’t know how to report the incident

Workplaces and schools can take a modern approach to protecting their people and their reputation by utilizing smartphone apps like STOPit as a 21st century solution. These tools are designed to create a safe space for students and employees to report incidents freely—and without fear. The hope is that by making it simple and anonymous, people will be encouraged to report, which allows for real-time, positive intervention for the victim as well as the additional benefit of helping to quickly identify repeat offenders.

Learn More About How STOPit Can Empower People to be Courageous When Confronting Sexual Assault

It’s encouraging to recognize that safe, anonymous reporting tools and improvements in organizational cultures are bolstering the courage of bystanders — giving them the confidence to get involved in protecting their co-workers by providing corroborating evidence in support of a friend’s, classmate’s or co-worker’s report. In a problem this serious, we celebrate every step forward.

“I Ask” for “Awareness to Action”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, a leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence, has adopted “I Ask” as their theme for this year’s SAAM. The campaign, “champions the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.” Words and actions shape our world and culture: raising awareness of how often sexual violence happens; talking about consent; sharing safety, prevention, and reporting strategies; and learning helpful and compassionate ways to talk to survivors are the goals of SAAM.

The good news is that individuals, communities, and companies are already taking important steps to successfully combat the risk of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse through conversations, programs, policies, and tools that promote safety, respect, and equality. Marriott has received a lot of recent, positive press for its corporate commitment to stamping out human trafficking in the hospitality industry.

Campaigns like #MeTooK12 and RAAIN’S Awareness to Action, provide everything from statistics to help define the problem and put it in context, to practical tools like scripts for how to hold a conversation with friends, family and community about sexual violence. They even provide ready-to-go graphics and campaign hashtags to help promote the conversation on social media platforms.

Encouraging as these campaigns are, however, we need to stay committed to working for real, lasting solutions to sexual violence in our workplaces, schools and communities. Recent news stories like the one that exposed rampant corruption —  including cheating and bribery — in the college admissions scandal, make it easier for us to allow the seriousness of this issue fade into the background and threaten to drown out emerging conversations that are calling for action — like those that are happening right now in higher education.

In fact, sexual misconduct is the most frequently reported and managed incident type on the STOPit app for Higher Education customers. Cases brought against campuses, including William Paterson University, and Ivy League schools such as Yale University where three students have filed a class-action lawsuit, arguing that the university has enabled a fraternity culture of harassment, remind us to remain engaged and vigilant — even as we celebrate progress towards the goal of making sexual harassment and victimization, rare.

Let’s Do More All Year Long to Combat Sexual Assault.

What else can be done to help? Individuals can show support for survivors, stand up to victim blaming, correct harmful misconceptions, and promote everyday consent.

Though it is certainly a good thing that SAAM gives us an opportunity to come together as a community to learn more and do more, one month isn’t enough to solve the widespread issue of sexual violence. However we can use the attention SAAM generates as an opportunity to energize and expand prevention efforts throughout the year.

The NSVRC is calling on supporters to wear teal on April 2, their “Day of Action,” as a way to spread awareness and show solidarity with survivors.

For more ideas and opportunities to get involved all month long, visit these organizations online:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

RAAIN

NO MORE

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Each voice is powerful and necessary in preventing sexual violence, misconduct, and abuse. SAAM is a powerful a reminder that we can change the world through the things we say and do each day.

For more information about STOPit and how organizations are using the anonymous reporting app to encourage healthier, safer communities, workplaces and schools, call one of our safety solutions experts, today.

Nurses Caring for Communities And Being Physically Assaulted, Harassed and Bullied In Return

“Nurses need strong coping mechanisms, and as many resources as possible to handle the extremely delicate and stressful situations that they face daily. Lateral violence and workplace bullying are commonplace, and it’s not just fellow nurses who are responsible for incivility. Every member of the healthcare team – including patients, families, and doctors – can be both a target or a perpetrator. In the world of health care, the human condition is unpredictable and emotionally charged.”
~ Dr. Seun Ross, the Director of Nursing Practice and Work Environment at the American Nurses Association (representing over 3 million nurses), stated in an interview with NBC News.

In May of this year, 160 ER nurses travelled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation promoting a safe workplace for health care employees. When the audience was asked: “who has ever been the victim of violence in their hospital?”, nearly every hand in the room went up.

Studies conducted by nursing associations have found that most nurses are regularly victims of bullying, harassment, racism, degradation, intimidation, unwanted sexual advances, and even violence on the job. In one study, over fifty percent of ER nurses reported experiencing violence at work within only the first seven days of their participation in the study. To make matters worse, nearly half (46.7%) of those who report incidents of any kind to their supervisor failed to receive support; and many got either no response or were asked to keep quiet.

No person should have to endure harassment or fear for their personal safety when doing their job, even nurses who expect to do hard physical work and interact with customers and co-workers in sometimes uncomfortable, intimate personal ways. And yet, obviously it happens, and with alarming frequency.

Helpers Need Help

A nurse who has been on the job for 57 years was asked if she had ever heard of a situation where a whistleblower was taken seriously and the perpetrator held accountable. She could only recall one incident – where an administrator was a known sexual predator and he was finally demoted from department head to a lower position where women were no longer required to report to him. However, he did not lose his title, seniority or salary status.

“There’s a culture of bullying and intimidation in nursing, especially for new nurses, which is why so many quit within the first five years. There is a lot of “hazing” that goes on, which I guess is meant to weed out the weak; toughen people up – but instead it creates an environment of hostility and mistrust. Bullying becomes normalized, and accepted as just one of the hazards of the job. Over time, the cumulative stress causes severe depression, anxiety, anger, insomnia, absenteeism, patient neglect, apathy, alcoholism, drug use, smoking, and other unhealthy habits designed to numb the pain and frustration. Rates of suicide, divorce, and burnout are very high. Staff turnover is constant; nurses always quitting or getting fired. After many bad early experiences I’m finally at a good facility now where they encourage teamwork, pair up nurses that work well together, and foster a workplace that is safe, professional, and diverse.”
~F.V., BSN at a NJ Nursing Home and Hospice Center for 8+ years.

Hidden Costs in Healthcare: More Than Just Money

In an organization that promotes health and healing, burnout and high turnover is a liability that impacts everyone from the CEO to the patient waiting to be admitted.

The Joint Commission revealed in 2014 that …71% of physicians and nurses linked incivility to medical error, and 99% of physicians (out of 800) believed bad behavior negatively impacted patient care. This means that in addition to the toll harassment and bullying takes on nursing staff, patient care is also impacted — and ultimately, increases hospital liability.

“Healthcare is getting more and more complex. Increasing demands, decreasing resources, burn out and bullying are huge contributing factors to how employees show up every day. Public criticisms, threatening or intimidating comments, blaming, sabotage, nurse bullying and incivility, and workplace violence are all impacting patient care.”
~ Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CMSRN, CSP; Founder of The Healthy Workforce Institute; and the leading authority on creating a healthy workforce culture by eradicating nurse bullying, workplace bullying, and incivility.

Unfortunately, bullying, discrimination, harassment and violence cannot be prevented from occurring, but nursing staff can be armed with tools to empower themselves, and also to create workplace environments where they feel supported and safe to report incidents that impact their own lives, that of their coworkers and their patients. Some attempts to address the situation that hospitals have implemented, like complaint drop boxes and 1-800 tip lines. But, they are often perceived by nursing staff as too risky as they’re not genuinely anonymous, or worse yet – “just for show”, with little or no follow up.

Fortunately, with the advent of tools like STOPit, empowering staff to report dangerous behavior is easy. It’s easy to implement safe, confidential reporting and it’s easy to administer. STOPit’s best-in-class incident management system is straightforward and logical. 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.

With the knowledge that an employer is taking the reports seriously and actively using an anonymous tool such as the STOPIt app, nursing staff can feel empowered to safely report incidents, and hospital administration can follow up in a way that is best suited for their needs and culture.

Better outcomes for staff. Better outcomes for patients. Just better.

Call today to speak with a STOPit app consultant and see if an anonymous reporting solution is right for your healthcare workplace.

MCPS Educators Meet for Health Summit

With the start of the spring semester just a day away, Maury County Public Schools’ counselors, special education instructors and nurses gathered at Spring Hill High School’s auditorium Wednesday for a special summit on identifying and helping students with mental health issues.

The all day event entitled, “Heading in the Right Direction: An Investment in Mental Health,” coordinated by Chattanooga’s National Center for Health Issues, included nationally recognized guest speakers ans was attended by 325 Maury County Educators. Tip Frank held a discussion on helping children and teens deal with anxiety and Tara Brown discussed research on student resiliency.

“If educators are excited about what they do and enjoy being there, they feel appreciated. That gets passed on to the students, and they feel appreciated,” MCPS Supervisor of Counseling and Mental Health Robb Killen said before the start of Wednesday’s summit. “It just makes for a better school environment in general, it’s just fantastic. We are headed in the right direction as far as acknowledging it and getting resources in the hands of those who deal with students.”

The meeting served as an initial step in helping those who work most with Maury County’s students better assist their pupils in times of distress. The effort began a year ago, when the school board approved the creation of a new position now held by Killen to oversee mental health in the county and unify its counselors and educators.

“Teachers have to deal with the mental health of students more often than people realize, and it is important that we have strategies as teachers that help us understand,” Jackie Goad, a special education teacher for hearing impaired students throughout the county, said. “What bothers me most is the suicide rate of teenagers going up, up and up. As a teacher, that is very alarming and concerning to me.”

During his discussion of suicide, Frank said current numbers show that 12 percent of all United States teenagers will have suicidal thoughts and 2 percent of all elementary school students will have those thoughts. That is the equivalent of about one elementary student per classroom.

An estimated 5,000 young people will commit suicide in 2017 and another 125,000 will attempt it.

“I think that all teachers need to concentrate on the mental health of students, and I think we do that,” Goad said.

Both Goad and her colleague Laura McDaniel said they feel some students are falling through the cracks of the school district.

“Maury County has become more of a transient county, and I think the support at home has declined,” Goad said. “When that happens, students feel like they have nowhere to turn, and if their teachers are not supportive, they feel like they are all alone. There are students that need help, and the more training we can do on mental health, the better.”

During the first half of the summit, educators reviewed the common triggers of depression, its most common signs and how to detect if a student might be suffering from the mental illness.

Killen previously confirmed that at least one student was counseled from harming themselves during the recent fall semester using the school district’s newly revised procedures and the STOPit app, which allows students to anonymously communicate with district educators.

“You are the first responders to point them in the right direction,” Frank, a licensed professional counselor and the author of The Magic Coloring Book of Feelings, The Handbook for Helping Kids with Anxiety and Stress and more, told the educators during the presentation. “You can get people moving.”

Killen said as national concerns for teen suicide increase, the school district has had success quelling behavioral issues within the county.

Comparing the number of reports of bullying in the months of August through November in 2015 with the same months in 2016, Killen said those incidents are down 28 percent, with 57 recorded in 2015 and 16 in 2016.

When reviewing bullying, threats, and harassment combined, the last semester has seen a decrease of 81 percent, moving from 120 reported cases during August through November in 2015 to 98 cases during the same period in 2016.

Maury County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chris Marczak welcomed the educators back for another semester and commended Killen, Coordinated School Health Coordinator Laurie Stanton and Supervisor of Special Education Lisa Ventura for putting mental health at the forefront.

“We need to start tackling the mental health issues in our community,” Marczak said. “A lot of the incidents that we see happening across the United States, a lot of experts point to mental health, and it’s the elephant in the room. It’s the thing that nobody wants to talk about, but it is something we have to talk about.”

Marczak said if the school district wants its Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness to come to fruition for all students, the school district will have to address the mental health needs of the kids who are struggling.

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