Employment news, Research perspectives

Doctors report sexual harassment by patients and colleagues

A survey of 1,378 doctors by the clinician resources website Medscape had found that one in five doctors have either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at work within the last three years. Inappropriate behaviour most often came from patients, with 17% saying they had been sexually harassed by a patient. A much smaller proportion (3%) said they had been sexually harassed by a colleague (3%) with the majority of perpetrators another doctor.

A factor here was found to be seniority, with more than half of those who had experienced harassment saying it came from a doctor in a senior position. Almost the same proportion said that they believe successful or senior staff are more likely to be granted greater leeway when it comes to inappropriate conduct.

The personal and professional impact on doctors who have been sexually harassed was also found to be significant, with 40% adopting negative behaviours to cope (such as isolation, binge eating or drinking alcohol), and 29% considering quitting their job.