Why #MeToo has been slow to hit the medical field

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While inappropriate behavior and allegations of sexual misconduct have spurred a reckoning in Hollywood and in other industries, medicine has yet to have its #MeToo moment, NBC News reports.

During a monthslong investigation, NBC News spoke with nearly a dozen women in medicine nationwide who pointed to multiple instances of sexual misconduct in their own lives and in the lives of their female colleagues. Female medical professionals claim the harassment is widespread.

"Part of it has to do with the culture of hospitals and the whole culture of healthcare in general, which is very hierarchical," Teresa Goodell, PhD, RN, a 58-year-old trauma clinical nurse specialist in the Portland, Ore., area, told NBC News.

Healthcare organizations have made it clear sexual harassment should not be condoned in the workplace. The American Medical Association's code of medical ethics explicitly states "sexual relationships between medical supervisors and trainees are not acceptable, even if consensual." However, the Harvey Weinstein expose and #MeToo have revealed one of the biggest reasons women do not report sexual harassment is the fear of being shamed or retaliated against. A report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, cited by NBC News, revealed 1 in 4 women experience workplace harassment, but up to 94 percent of women do not file a complaint.

The idea of retaliation for speaking out against harassment in medicine was referenced in Time magazine's 2017 cover for its annual "Person of the Year" issue, which featured prominent individuals who have spoken out against workplace harassment. The cover featured five women, along with a sixth individual who was cropped out of the photo except for her elbow. The woman was identified as a hospital worker from Texas who sought to keep her identity anonymous out of fear.

Experts suggest retaliation, along with factors unique to medicine, like the 24/7 nature of the job and easy access to beds and call rooms in hospitals, have allowed harassment to continue to proliferate in the field, according to the report.

"I think it's safe to say anyone who is a nurse will tell you that they've experienced some sort of sexual harassment, either from a patient, a family member coming to visit a patient, or from their coworker," Seun Ross, MSN, DNP, director of nursing practice and work environment at the American Nurses Association, which represents more than 3 million nurses, told NBC News.

"Sometimes it's just easier not to say anything, and we hear that from nurses. They are in the business of saving lives, helping people to get better, and often dismiss these kinds of things as trivial, 'oh, that's just boys being boys, that's just the culture which we work in,'" she said.

To access the full report, click here.

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