This is a tough subject…but one worthy of discussion.
Grass-roots movements tackling social issues have gained national momentum. Time’s Up, one widely embraced movement, has taken on the challenge of confronting sexual harassment, intimidation, inequity in the workplace and gender bias. Time’s Up Healthcare is an affiliate group with a laser focus on the healthcare workplace.
When we share our stories of experiences with sexual harassment and intimidation, we participate in ending the shame and stigma. Nurses have long been the silent victims. Along with other healthcare professionals, nurses are speaking up as a result of the #MeToo movement. Many of us have stories of experiences with gender inequity and sexual harassment in nursing. Does it exist in school nursing too?
The numbers are simultaneously astounding, but not surprising. There are approximately 80,000 school nurses across the country. What are our stories? Do we dare describe our experiences? Time’s Up HealthCare is asking school nurses to share in the conversation, our perspective is important and needed.
Dr. Jessica Gold, one of the founding members of Time’s Up Healthcare, sent a Tweet asking if school nurses would contribute our stories, perspectives, and voice to this national conversation. I reached out to Dr. Gold because her question intrigued me. First, I felt encouraged that she was specifically asking for the voice of school nursing in this national discussion. Secondly, I wondered if there would be a response from school nurses.
This is not easy, I understand, and your responses can be completely anonymous. It is important to end the stigma of sexual harassment, intimidation and gender bias in nursing and the only way we can begin to heal is to speak truth to power. So, I will start…
I naively never expected to experience sexual harassment as a school nurse. I was new in the field, not new to nursing though and had encountered plenty of uncomfortable and inappropriate scenarios in my career. But, I thought it would be different in school nursing.
There was a school doctor who made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I had just started in my position and at that time, we provided physicals for all students in certain grades. Red flags were flying high when this physician began coming in late for the scheduled physicals. His assessments were cursory and truthfully sloppy. I was not happy with the poor quality of the care my students were receiving, but I was new and felt completely overwhelmed in the independent practice of school nursing. I had 900 students in a complex urban district from PK – 8th grade, so I made due until one day…
The doctor came in, late again, disheveled again and began to share the reason for his excessive latenesses. He said that he enjoyed sex so much that he could not tear himself away from his partner. He then asked me what my sexual enjoyment was and if I ever felt that way too. I was deeply disturbed by his inappropriate behavior and extremely uncomfortable. My actions were immediate, I reported him and asked that he not return to school. I also felt disempowered and discouraged and until now, I never told anyone.
It actually feels liberating to share this story and I know that I am not alone. I am going to collect stories to share with Times Up Healthcare. No names will be shared without permission. Let’s break our silence and reclaim our power. If you are willing to submit a story, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.