When you think of nurses, you probably think of intelligent, brave, and selfless people who are on the frontline risking their lives to save others. Even though more men are entering the nursing profession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 89% of nurses are female. But what if I told you that these courageous female nurses are victims of sexual assault on the daily? Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, think again…
Many nurses feel safer wearing a mask not just to protect them against exposure to the Corona Virus, but also from exposure to sexual assault. Liz Brockland, a registered nurse speaks out and explains, “As a health care provider, I often find that wearing a face mask weakens my practice. But as a woman, I’ve found it’s a relief.” Why is it that something that makes a nurse’s job harder actually makes them feel safer? Why is it that nurses are unable to do their job without having to worry that their patients or their families are going to violate them? Sexual assault against females is a REAL problem that impacts women in every profession.
How do patients get away with touching their nurses inappropriately in hospitals without anyone seeing, you might ask? Well, sexual assault is not just a physical action. Sexual assault can occur with communication, too. Want to hear a few examples? Liz Brockland states, “as a nurse, that began for me when I was still a student. Talking with a patient’s family in a pediatric hospital in St. Louis with my nurse preceptor, one of the family members interrupted us to tell us that while he thought we were both cute, he thought my nurse preceptor was prettier. I was dumbfounded. In the middle of trying to do our jobs, caring for the health of a hospitalized child, we were being reviewed and ranked based on our appearances”. Liz also described an incident that happened during a home health visit, “once, when I needed to assess a pressure sore on the lower back of my client in his apartment, he said that he would love to pull down his pants for me. The interaction had suddenly shifted from routine and medical to predatory”. Could you image this happening to someone who is simply just doing their job? Doesn’t sound like a big deal? Imagine going through intense schooling, paying off outrageous student loans, working off hours, being a first responder during the pandemic, just to be treated like this. Not to mention the hit to one’s self-esteem being compared to another female as the one that is “less attractive” as well as feel uncomfortable in a patient’s home.
This has got me thinking… What can be done to prevent this from continuing to happen to nurses across the country? If you ask me, raising awareness on this issue is a good place to start. Before stumbling across this article by Liz Brockland, I had no idea that so many female nurses suffer from sexual assault while on the clock. I was surprised to learn that home health nurses are trained to position themselves closest to and exit in case they feel unsafe. This article motivated me to speak to my friends at JMU who are nursing majors and ask them about this current problem. I was surprised to hear that they ALL had either heard about or witnessed first-hand this issue happening to the nurses that they shadow. After speaking with them, they agreed that raising awareness on this issue as well as holding patients more accountable for their actions is a step in the right direction to fighting against sexual assault on female nurses.
Brockland, L. (2020, November 20). Nurses like me face sexual harassment. COVID-19 masks, unfortunately, bring relief. Retrieved March 21, 2021, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/11/20/coronavirus-covid-19-nurse-masks-sexual-harrassment-column/3776242001/