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Sexual harassment in care work - Dilemmas and consequences: A qualitative investigation

Nielsen MB, Kjær S, Aldrich PT, et al. Sexual harassment in care work - Dilemmas and consequences: A qualitative investigation. International Journal of Nursing Studies 2017;70:122-30.
Date: 2017
Scientific Article
BACKGROUND: Care workers are often exposed to sexual harassment from patients. Research shows that such exposure may have detrimental effects on mental health of the care workers. Inappropriate sexual behaviour from patients is a particular challenge for formal and informal care workers alike. There is a scarceness of studies investigating the experience and the handling of sexual harassment from patients. OBJECTIVES: To investigate the experience and handling of sexual harassment from patients in care work. DESIGN: The study follows an explorative qualitative approach, rooted in phenomenology based on group interviews (n=19) with 39 care workers. SETTINGS: Ten workplaces participated in the study, including hospitals, nursing homes, community health centres, rehabilitations care centres, and psychiatric residential facilities. PARTICIPANTS: We conducted group interviews with care workers (employees), managers, shop stewards and/or safety representatives. The majority of the interviewees were trained nurses. RESULTS: The interviews revealed that sexual harassment is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. The care workers often separated between intentional and unintentional behaviours initiated by cognitively impaired patients. Thus, they often refrain from using the term harassment, because it implies that the actions were intentional. However, the interviews revealed that, in practice, this separation was very difficult, and that sexual harassment often creates a range of dilemmas in the daily work. At the same time, sexual harassment is a taboo and the care workers. The managers, shop stewards and safety representatives in this study were often not aware of the frequency and the impact of the episodes had on the care workers. The workplaces participating in this study, rarely had guidelines or policies for managing and/or preventing sexual harassment or inappropriate sexual behaviours, but often responded to episodes in an ad hoc and case-by-case manner. CONCLUSI
Updated  14.03.2017
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