There have been increasing claims of nurses being sexually harassed. Some male nurses have reported being harassed; however, more than 50% are female nurses. The harasser may be male or female, and the victim may be of the opposite sex or the same sex as the harasser. Sexual harassment is not acceptable and unlawful. It can affect a person’s emotional and mental health, as well as lead to significant stress and anxiety.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that “harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.” Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome behavior of sexual advances, a request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment (EEOC).
Types of sexual harassment include:
Telling lewd jokes, or sharing sexual anecdotes;
Making inappropriate sexual gestures;
Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, or whistling;
Asking sexual questions, such as questions about someone’s sexual history or their sexual orientation;
Making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts;
Making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity;
Inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person.
Whatever form the sexual harassment may take, it is important that it is recognized, and that prompt action is taken against the harasser. Preventing sexual harassment and taking proactive steps to deal with harassment that does occur is especially critical.
Here are eight steps to protect yourself from being sexually harassed:
Be informed about the definition of sexual harassment.
Be knowledgeable about institutional policies regarding sexual harassment.
Take an active role in fostering a work environment free from sexual harassment.
Attend sexual harassment prevention courses or training.
Report the harassment to your supervisor immediately, or to a higher authority if your supervisor is the harasser. Consult with your human resources office and government agency if necessary. Never be afraid to report a comment, action, or gesture by somebody that made you feel uncomfortable.
If possible, speak with the individual directly and inform him or her that you feel the behavior is inappropriate.
Seek support from family members, friends, colleagues, or your state nurses’ association.
Document the harassment in writing as soon as possible.
Nursing malpractice occurs when a nurse fails to perform his or her medical duties competently and that failure harms the patient. It is true that negligence on part of a nurse can cause serious harm to a patient, but the nurse may not always be at fault.
A number of factors contribute to the quality of care that is provided to patients. For instance, the type of facilities available at the hospital or nursing home, the diagnosis made by the treating doctor, the medical information provided by patients or their families, and so on determine the kind of care to be provided to patients.
However, there may be instances when the nurse might be blamed for someone else’s error. If you’re a nurse and something similar has happened to you, you must proactively try to defend yourself with the help of an experienced attorney.
How Negligence and Malpractice Claims Affect a Nurse’s Career
A nurse is required to adhere to the ‘standards of care’ in nursing. By adhering to the standards of care, the nurse ensures best-quality care for patients and stays away from facing the legal hassles of negligence and malpractice. However, a nurse can be sued even if he/she has complied with the standards of care. If this happens, then the nurse’s career will be in jeopardy. The nurse’s license can also be revoked. A lawsuit brought against a nurse can also wreak emotional havoc and strike a fatal blow to his/her self-confidence and self-esteem.
Moreover, other patients under the care of the same nurse may also be affected severely. Therefore, if you believe that you are wrongfully sued or you were only partly responsible for the harm, then you must work with an experienced lawyer and defend yourself.
Remember, medical malpractice laws are enacted and regulated by individual states, so you must appoint an attorney who is well-versed with the laws in your state. For instance, if you are a nurse in Savannah, then you must work with a Savannah personal injury attorney, who can defend you in court.
Defending Nursing Malpractice Claims
After a lawsuit has been filed against a nurse, various defenses can be raised that can absolve the defendant completely or limit the plaintiff’s claims. Some of the most common defenses used to protect nurses in nursing malpractice cases are:
1. Failure to Prove the Elements of Negligence
Just as in any personal injury case, the plaintiff in a nursing malpractice case is required to prove the four elements of a successful claim. These include:
Duty to the plaintiff
Breach of duty
Damage or injury caused due to the breach of duty and
If the defendant is able to prove that any one or more of the above elements is not established by the plaintiff, the case may be absolved.
2. Contributory Negligence
If you can prove that the patient was also partly or fully responsible for his injuries/harm, then you can get the case absolved or at least lower your penalty. Contributory negligence involves not communicating the medical history adequately, not following instructions, and not following up. The attorney will study the case and analyze the various factors involved to determine the factor that led to the injury/harm. It is for this reason that you are required to provide in-depth information about whatever happened. However, some states have adopted the comparative negligence approach. So, it is important that you work with an experienced attorney, who can help you understand the laws in your state.
3. Violation of Statute of Limitations
Most states have enacted statutes of limitations, which determine the time frame within which a plaintiff is required to file a personal injury case. If the plaintiff fails to file the case within this predetermined time limit, then it can be used as a defense by the defending party. However, several exceptions have been made to the statute of limitations and these vary from state to state. Therefore, only a seasoned attorney can help you understand whether or not you can use this defense.
There can be several other defenses depending upon your specific case. A skilled attorney will look into the case and decide which recourse will be most suitable for you. Remember, you need to provide enough evidence to prove your innocence. Thus, professional assistance is important.
With nursing malpractice claims rising each year, nurses need to become more cautious about their work and the quality of care they provide to the patient. However, in case you are sued by a patient, you have the choice to get legal help and prove your innocence. If you believe you aren’t at fault, then work with an experienced lawyer and get your name cleared.
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