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Sexual Harassment And Violence Against Registered Nurses

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Scope of the Problem

When we think of the word nurse, what comes to mind? What is probably coming through our heads is someone who helps treat patients, help take care of someone when they are sick, think of nurses as caring, humble, respectful human beings. Yet, it never occurs to someone that nurses are also people who get sexually harassed or assaulted. Nurses need to stop being scared and stand up for what they believe by saying what needs to be said at the moment. Sexual harassment and violence against nurses needs to stop. Nurses should be able to feel safe in their workplace.

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There is growing numbers that violence against nurses as well as other health care personnel is something that is becoming too common. Stated by Ward-Smith (2018) “The characterization of the ‘naughty nurse’ as either a social or costumed character alludes that nurses are sexual objects”. It is never okay to be able to treat someone with such little respect whether it is physical or verbal violence, nurses need to be respected and treated with dignity and honor the hard work that is being done by them. According to an article done by Relias Media out of every four nurses one of them reports that they have been sexually harassed in the workplace. As said from Chuck and Heimerocks sexual harassment can come from anyone; it can be from the patients, peers, or even supervisors.

People often think harassments only come from the patients but no it can be from anyone, and even the person that is least expected from. The purpose of this paper on sexual harassment and violence against registered nurses is to make it aware to people that it is an actual problem. Action needs to be taken in order to help our nurses and not just nurses but everyone in the healthcare work field and any other jobs. Nobody should ever have to go to work scared or lonely, the workplace should be where someone enjoys going to and doesn’t look at it as a job rather seeing it as a hobby. People need this problem to be treated and to be taken serious, not just for the nurses but for it to be a safety environment for the patients and communities as well. If people take a stand and try to make a difference it will make nurses have a voice and speak up, especially because sexual harassment can be defined as a sexual assault to it being defined as an unwanted request for a date. Putting a stop to this will encourage nurses to do a better job and not be scared of every patient that they are assigned too.

Applicable Evidence

When a jail inmate takes two nurses hostage and points to them with a gun and one of them is brutally assaulted matters need to be taken into consideration. It is not okay to harm people, there was also another nurse who almost got stabbed when she was working in the emergency department. Lisa Wolf stated, “The ER is the front door to the hospital 24/7, that means that anyone understandably can walk in at any time”. Meaning that nurses never really know when something is coming towards their way, because the hospital is open to anyone and everyone. People can enter a hospital with a gun or another weapon and nobody is really aware of it until it can be too late and people have already been injured. Patients are not the only ones that can harass a nurse, like mentioned above superiors or physicians can too. A physician can be an important role to help prevent and manage violence, but in a way a physician can also be the source of violence as referred by Kvas and Seljak. According to Curtin, a male physician was harassing a nurse and had been doing it for a while, but in this instance the husband (working as a physical therapist) saw when the physician was putting his hand up the nurse’s skirt.

In order for the nurse to report how long she had been harassed was because the husband saw and took action on what was going on. How much do nurses need to wait to report or think that it is the right time to get help and inform someone to take action of the situation. Nurses have to deal with so much; they have to face verbal and physical violence, some of the things are kicking, spitting, and punching. Bullying is also a form of violence, although people do not see it that way, bullying is a deliberate and repeated attempt; it is something used to harm others with not so much power. In 2015 a research article was done “50.4% had experienced type two violence in their careers, 39% reported at least one violent event in the prior year, in all 2,098 workers reported being physically assaulted 1,180 times, physically threatened 2,260 times, and verbally abused 5,676 times”. A type two violence is when there is physical assault, treat and verbal abuse included. A newer survey was done by the ANA in 2018 “7,000 respondents about 29% have experienced sexual harassment at work,” on December 2017 “569 nurses, 73% of female nurses and 46% male nurses reported being sexually harassed”. The study of how many nurses are experiencing sexual harassment is a large number, it was only a poll from Medscape Medical News, imagine if the whole United States did a poll on nurses how big would the number be?

The data numbers could be higher because not all nurses report the abuse or violence due to the fact that they think it is part of the job. Some numbers showing the different percentage of types of violence done, 60.1% verbal and 26% physical violence, that being said verbal violence is the most common. Nurses are the ones more at risk due to the fact that they are the ones who are in contact with the patients and their family, directing them to have more interaction with them. Nurses feel like if they report the situation about being harassed that they will be shamed or punished for speaking up. What happens most of the time is that it gets ignored because nurses believe that it will not make a difference. The reality with that is that sometimes it does get ignored when a nurse speaks up because a physician or administrator is the one that causes the abuse, and since they are people with big power in a hospital it is not talked about so that the reputation is not ruined. Living in a world where reputation is more important than the well-being of a person is why nurses prefer to not speak up. In other cases, nurses feel like they will lose their job or get in trouble for talking about being abused. Nurses need to be assured that if they speak up punishment is bound to happen to the perpetrator. That consequences will happen for someone that is stepping out of the boundaries. Nurses need to be aware of when they are being harassed, or someone is stepping out of the line; nurses need to know that reporting it to someone can help them put a stop to it. The cause of being sexual harassed or abused can lead to frustration, emotional consequences and even professional setbacks.

Imagine if more nurses started quitting their jobs due to harassment and being abused. In the close future the United States would have a larger number of shortage of nurses. People would not want to work as a nurse because of the harassment and violence of patients, coworkers, and peers. The health care facilities would have no more nurses and would probably cause a disaster in the work force. Nurses are a major role on the health care environment and are much needed to help a hospital, clinic, and a department running. In United States of Health and Human Services it was said that one of the reasons that nurses leave the job is because of job dissatisfaction and sometimes they even leave the profession for good. That is why there needs to be a stop to the sexual harassment and violence against nurses, the reason being is that nurses are a huge function to the healthcare environment. If nurses start to speak up and report the abuse or violence, people will start a change and put an end to the sexual harassment and violence against nurses.


Sexual harassment and violence against registered nursed has started to take a jump and becoming more aware. People have started to be more proactive about the situation, which leads to nurses to feel safe in the work environment. A major group making changes is the ANA by having a zero tolerance policy against violence in the health care settings. Other things that help prevent sexual harassment and violence is to maintain a culture of safety and quality. Nurses need to be able to participate in the development of programs that prevent workplace violence and also be able to understand the policies that the organizations have and the procedures that are related to the prevention of violence towards the workplace. In order to have a change, nurses need to learn to report when the situation happens. For it to have effectiveness on programs that are making a positive change towards violence they need to be reported immediately. The freedom of right that is given to the nurses is being in a union, a union gives nurses collectives protected voice, and it also gives them a legal representation in the hospital. Programs are being made just like the “Staying Safe Program” a program that helps address all the assaults and injuries from the direct care employees. Some interventions that need to be taken into consideration is to be educated as a nurse on what to do, being able to educate the public, having a safe workplace, and urging for the nurses to report the perpetrators. One of the most powerful sources of a nurse is to be able to educate, this makes it the number one role of a nurse.


Having numerous of nurses in the healthcare environment will help a hospital run so much smoother, since nurses are a major component in the field. As future nurses come along, one needs to know that they will be safe and not have to worry about being abused. People need to be aware of the situation in order to help nurses have better rights and better outcomes with patients, peers, and superior. They should not have to worry about sexual harassment and violence. Having more programs, and educating more about sexual harassment and violence can really start a change towards our future nurses meaning that patients will experience better outcomes. Knowing that there is a stand towards “End Nurse Abuses” and having a zero tolerance of violence against nurses shows that a better future awaits.

11 February 2020

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