More than half of Australian female GPs sexually harassed by patients, study finds – The Daily Telegraph
DOZENS of Australian female GPs are being sexually harassed by patients in their workplace, a study reveals.
Researchers found more than half of female GPs have been harassed by a patient at least once.
But just fewer than one in four said they had received training in the event they were sexually harassed by a patient, according to a study published today in the Medical Journal of Australia.
The Monash University study has provoked warnings from medical experts for people to more aware of the problems facing GPs.
According to the nationwide survey of 180 female doctors almost 55 per cent said they had been harassed by a patient.
Of those, almost 10 per cent said they had been sexually harassed more than eight times.
Inappropriate examination was the most common behaviour females reported, with nearly two in three being subjected to such issues.
The next common problems included more than half being subjected to inappropriate exposure of body parts followed by gender-based remarks (43.3 per cent), inappropriate gifts (42.3 per cent), sexual remarks (36.1 per cent) and touching or grabbing (30.9 per cent).
Two thirds of the GPs who reported sexual harassment said the experience had caused them to change their consulting style.
This included adopting a more formal manner in consultations, changing their style of dress, altering or not performing examinations, keeping their personal life more private and no longer working after hours or alone.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Liz Marles said the research highlighted the vulnerability of female doctors.
She said the fact GPs worked “behind closed doors” in a one-on-one confidential environment only escalated the potential situation.
“It’s not on, it’s not OK – exactly the same protection should be afforded to GPs as anyone else in the community,” she said.
Dr Marles said the study highlighted an area where GPs could be better taught ways to protect and deal with sexual harassment situations if and when they arise.
Australian Medical Association SA president Dr Patricia Montanaro agreed.
“It’s a really timely reminder that female practitioners need to be thoughtful about this issue as do their practices,” she said.
Dr Montanaro said she wasn’t surprised by the high number of female doctors reporting they had been sexually harassed.
“It is certainly something that I’ve spoken with my peers about at great length – when you have a difficult problem or complicated situation (then) yes we do talk about it and what are possible solutions,” she said.
Depending on the situation, GPs are first asked to address the situation and set limits about what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable behaviour with their patients.
They can also opt to speak to their peers or management and refer the matter to police if the behaviour is of a criminal nature.
Study co-author Dr Peter Bratuskins, a senior lecturer in primary health care at Monash University, said the report highlighted the need for more training for female doctors to help prevent and deal with sexual harassment.
“Workplace safety training should also recognise possible sexual harassment by patients and policy and practice-based approaches are needed to support clinicians in practice,” he said.