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Sexual harassment rife in healthcare

8 October 2013

Australian female General Practitioners are facing an epidemic of sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new report published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Following a survey of 180 female Australian GPs, scientists from Monash University found that 54.5 per cent of respondents reported having experienced sexual harassment by a patient during their career.

Of that number, 9.3 per cent said they had been sexually harassed by patients more than eight times since entering the profession.

Despite this, only 6.7 per cent of survey participants said they had received workplace harassment training specifying how to react when patients act in an inappropriate fashion.

The study's authors have pointed to these results as evidence that the medical profession needs to work to increase awareness about this important issue.

"Given the likely adverse effects of exposure to sexual harassment, greater dialogue is needed within the medical profession with research and action to increase awareness of the issue, develop specific training and support pathways to help prevent sexual harassment by patients and assist those clinicians who experience sexual harassment by patients," they wrote.

iHR Australia Workplace Training EEO Anti-Bullying Contact Officer Workplace Investigation Officer Melbourne Sydney Canberra Perth Brisbane Adelaide

"Workplace safety training should also recognise possible sexual harassment by patients, and policy and practice-based approaches are needed to support clinicians in practice."

According to the report, the most common type of sexual harassment experienced by Australian female GPs is a "request for inappropriate examination".

This was followed by "inappropriate exposure of body parts", "gender-based remarks", "inappropriate gifts", "sexual remarks" and "touching or grabbing".

The majority (66 per cent) of female GPs who said they had been sexual harassed by patients indicated that they had made changes to either their personal life or consulting style as a result.

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