By Jack Tuckner, Esq.
Nurses have it tough because not only are 90% of them still female, working often in subordinate positions to physicians and administrators who are men setting up a power differential and dynamic where they’re subjected to unwelcome sexual attention, but patients often sexually harass nurses. And if you are a nurse and you’re being sexually harassed by patients, its still illegal sexual harassment.
Yes, you as a healthcare provider and professional have to balance the understanding that this person may be in pain, or suffering, or very old, or trying to be playful, and maintain a relationship with you, and perhaps he doesn’t mean anything by it, so if it happens, you have to balance being firm, having boundaries, cutting it off right at the start, but if the patient doesn’t take the hint, doesn’t back off, doesn’t apologize immediately, you need to report it formally, in writing, to administration so that they can protect you, so that they can do something about it.
The employer needs to protect you, the nurse, from sexualizing content and behavior, and unwelcome sexual energy in your workplace. The essential elements [functions] of your position as a registered nurse or nurse practitioner or licensed practical nurse do not include playing, flirting, using your feminine wiles with your patient. They don’t pay you enough for that. So if its happening to you, complain, put it in writing. Otherwise it’s as if the sexual harassment were occurring from a co-worker.