1. Simpson, Kathleen Rice PhD, RNC, CNS-BC, FAAN

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There has been a lot of much needed and long overdue focus recently on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the health care workplace, including from colleagues, other members of the team, and patients and their family members (Kahsay et al., 2020; Lu et al., 2020). Usually there is a power gradient involved, with the abuser in a position of authority over the victim (Kahsay et al.; Lu et al.). This is not a new issue for nurses (Fitzgerald, 1993). No nurse should have to face abuse. When it occurs, is observed, or reported, it should be called out, believed, and actions taken. Sending perpetrators to remedial classes has limited value, especially if that is the only ramification for their conduct. A class is unlikely to change long-standing attitudes and behaviors. If a person is involved in a minor, one-time event, a class may offer valuable insight into how their inappropriate behavior affects others and perhaps lead to modification. Holding repeated offenders accountable must include removing them from the position of authority and from the institution. (Dobbin & Kalev, 2019).


There are many other types of harassment and discrimination that can occur. Nurses can be discriminated against and treated poorly for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, race or ethnicity, age, gender, weight, socioeconomic status, level of education, and mental health (Nadal et al., 2016; Offermann et al., 2014; Rubino et al., 2020). Racism, microaggressions, and stigmatization are meant to hurt and belittle others and they do, but are sometimes overlooked or ignored, to avoid a confrontation that could be embarrassing or lead to gaslighting or retaliation. The victim may be forced to suffer in silence.


As nurses, we must do all that we can to support and protect fellow nurses from discrimination, harassment, microaggressions, and abuse. Rather than putting up with misogynist or abusive colleagues who are disrespectful, demeaning, or worse, we must rally around all nurses and speak up when we observe this type of behavior. If a colleague discloses something to you, even if you are not a mandated reporter, take steps to help them get support and resolution. Our silence or overlooking of these events allows them to continue. How many of us have put up sexual innuendo, crude jokes, and unwanted touching in the health care work place? As a new graduate nurse, these types of things were part of the unit culture at the first two places I worked and in the clinical sites I was sent to as a student. Things must be different now. Nurses deserve better. Just because we were expected to ignore or even laugh at inappropriate and offensive comments and behavior years ago, does not mean our younger colleagues should have to do the same today. Please consider what you can do to role model supportive actions in the context of inappropriate behavior and to help make sure the workplace is safe. A safe and healthy workplace for nurses promotes safe care for patients.




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