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Sexual harassment: "They talk about patients rubbing against them when they get dressed"


According to a study, sexual harassment in the workplace often comes from patients. Sabine Oertelt-Prigione researches at the Charité - and knows about cases in-house.

More than half of the workplace sexual harassment comes from a third party, such as a client or patient. This is what a new study by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency says. Sabine Oertelt-Prigione is a professor and women's and equality representative of the Charité. We talked to her about hierarchies in hospitals, overstretched patients, and first-come-first-places for those affected.

ZEITONLINE: You've done a big study on sexual harassment in the Charité. How often does the clinic experience sexual harassment?

SabineOertelt-Prigione: Exact numbers are not there, but I'm guessing that there are fewer cases than a few years ago. In public, but also in our house, is now more talked about the subject. This deters potential offenders.

"The people who are lower in the hierarchy are more affected." Sabine Oertelt-Prigione, Professor at the Charité

ZEITONLINE: Do the harassments happen more in the circle of colleagues - or do they start from patients?

Oertelt-Prigione: According to our studies, employees are especially concerned who are harassed by colleagues - mostly verbally. For example, a doctoral student sits with her professor and starts talking about vacations that they could do together. Or he says how much he would like to see her in bikini. But there are also patients who become overlapping with our employees. In this case, the nursing staff are more likely to be affected, and the attacks are often physical. For example, when a caregiver washes a patient, it may happen that they cling to it - on the breasts, buttocks, or between the legs. And not because there was no other way to hold on.

ZEITONLINE: Is that the same with doctors when dealing with patients?

Oertelt-Prigione: Rarely rare, and if so, it hits the younger, inexperienced. This is mainly because doctors do not spend as much time with patients and physically as close to them as caregivers. Body contact is a risk factor for sexual harassment.

ZEITONLINE: We always talk about patients, men. Is it true that they are more likely to be overbearing than patients?

Oertelt-Prigione: According to our findings, men are more likely to be overbearing than women. However, among those who are sexually molested, the sex ratio is roughly in balance. Sixty percent of those interviewed were women, 40 percent men. In the case of men, it is, among other things, situations in which someone has spoken to them in homophobic terms. In general, we can say that the people below in the hierarchy are more frequently affected. Sexual harassment is not about sexuality, it's about abuse of power.

"Many sufferers are insecure, especially if the attack was rather subliminal." Sabine Oertelt-Prigione

ZEITONLINE: Patients are actually in a less powerful position towards the nurses, right?

Oertelt-Prigione: As a rule yes. A large part of them is not overbearing. Some patients, however, compensate their frail condition with cocky slogans. Often, unresponsive patients become cross-border - for example, when they are severely intoxicated or mentally ill. The nursing staff can usually classify this well.

ZEITONLINE : What do you advise the employees who were harassed?

Oertelt-Prigione: First of all, they might say to the patient or the patient: Listen, I'm here to do my job. I'm not here because I want to spend my free time with them. So you could clearly define the professional role of all. Usually that's enough. And if not, there are several first points of contact in the Charité to which they can entrust themselves. For example, the women's and equal opportunities officer, ie me, the staff council or the direct supervisors. Sometimes it is easier to talk to colleagues first. The Charité also offers a button on the home page intranet, which our employees can click on when harassed. Then they will be shown the correct port of call.

ZEITONLINE: What happens there?

Oertelt-Prigione: Many sufferers are unsure, especially if the attack was subliminal. For example, they talk about patients rubbing at them when they get dressed, but at the same time apologizing. Undangrinsen. The caregiver has felt uncomfortable and wonders: Is this already an attack? When talking is often clear: Yes, it is. Then the affected person decides what to do next. What does she wish for? Would she like to have a three-way conversation moderated by us? Or does not want to be confronted anymore with cross-border people? Which instances should be switched on?

ZEITONLINE: What can one do with an overstretched patient? You can throw him out in a bad way.

Oertelt-Prigione: This is usually not really, you have an ethical obligation. If he had a stroke, of course, you can not send him on the street. But you can, for example, contact the station management. It could tell the patient that this behavior is not accepted here. And demand respect. Or the management exchanges the shift of a nurse with that of a caregiver. And see if the patient is coping with the man. She can always send two employees together to the patient. Or talk to his relatives. And if everything does not help, we have excellent security here in the clinic. His employees are used to grief. In an emergency, they then just during the care with in the patient room. We have already done that.

Source: zeit

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