With the advent of the “Me Too” movement, challenges for women in the workplace are in the forefront of everyone’s mind - and sexual misconduct in healthcare is no different. In fact, studies indicate that as many as 30% of female physicians have had such encounters. For other healthcare workers, the number is as high as 60%.
The AMA Code of Ethics defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” and draws a firm ethical line for all medical professionals. Nonetheless, even as the number of women in healthcare increases (for instance, medical school enrollment has reached a 40/60 ratio), the problem persists. Hospitals and medical practices of any kind must make sure they adopt legally mandated policies and secure the proper safeguards in case a complaint leads to litigation. Here are three things to implement to prevent and protect providers from the consequences of sexual misconduct in healthcare.
1. Establish Required Policies
Employers must write and distribute a very clear zero tolerance statement. The statement should detail what behavior falls under the category of sexual misconduct and employees must sign a copy of the document. In addition, employers must clarify and ensure that employees do not face retaliation for making a report; reporting must be kept private among those directly involved. Employers also need a consistent procedure (to be executed by disinterested parties) including interviews, observation and ultimately resolution - whether disciplinary action or termination in the case that harassment is verified.
2. Offer Necessary Training
Legally, a healthcare employer must provide mandatory training at least once a year. Training must include everything established in the policies above as well as comprehensive education. The classes must be interactive in a way that “sensitizes” employees to the dynamic. Education should include information on consequences – both financially for the company and personally for those affected. Management should also have special training to identify potential problems as they occur.
3. Purchase Liability Insurance
With the increase in malpractice litigation, professional liability insurance is a must. But carrying such policies can be costly. Employment Practices Liability Insurance was designed “to protect a company against charges of sexual harassment, wrongful termination, discrimination or other allegations.” But unlike other malpractice insurance, these policies encompass a wide range of options, some better suited to low-earning or small medical concerns. Hospitals may choose more comprehensive versions while smaller employers can consider the more affordable stand-alone policies.
Sexual misconduct in healthcare is nothing new. But increased awareness and preparation goes a long way towards ensuring a workplace that is safe for everyone. Establish and distribute firm zero tolerance policies, educate your employees and administrators, and make sure you have a plan of action to protect your healthcare company in case it does happen.
MASC Medical can help you find candidates who know how to protect your healthcare business and pre-vetted employees to reduce your chances of facing the problem altogether.