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Sexual harassment a pervasive problem in health care

When you show up to your place of employment, you have a right to a comfortable work environment that is free from discrimination and harassment. Regrettably, however, discrimination and harassment are common issues in many American work settings, with some industries and fields experiencing higher rates of them than others.

Sexual harassment, for example, is an especially significant problem for students and workers in health care settings, including hospitals and doctor's offices, with the Harvard Business Review reporting that the problem often starts before medical students even begin their careers. Just what is it that makes health care settings such hotbeds for sexual harassment?

The link between sexual harassment and health care

There are several different factors that are likely contributing to the high incidence of sexual harassment in medical and health care settings. For starters, many such work environments maintain hierarchical structures where men are predominantly in control, and this can lead to higher incidences of sexual harassment. The problem is often even more pervasive in work environments that tolerate this type of behavior, and this tends to be more common in places where males hold the majority of the power.

While workers in health care settings often experience on-the-job sexual harassment, many medical students also experience this type of treatment before they even accept an official health care position. About half of all female medical students acknowledge that they have experienced harassment in the classroom, while between 30 and 70 percent of female doctors reported experiencing it in their places of business.

Avoiding litigation a priority

Another factor that likely contributes to the high incidence of sexual harassment in health care is the fact that many health care settings prioritize avoiding litigation - and, therefore, saving money - above all else. Today's health care organizations need to not only recognize just how pervasive the sexual harassment problem is in the industry, but take strides to help eliminate it.

Many sexual harassment victims hesitate to come forward, but the more victims call attention to the matter, the more it will force health care organizations to acknowledge and address that there is, in fact, a problem.

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