A leading union has called for greater protections for nurses as a poll reveals six in ten have been sexually harassed at work.
Conducted by Unison and the Nursing Times, the survey asked 2,000 UK nurses about their experiences at work, discovering that 60% had been sexually harassed at work by patients or colleagues.
The most common form of harassment was verbal with 56% of nurses reporting that they has been confronted with inappropriate jokes, comments about their appearance, invitations on a date or questions about their private lives.
However, 37% said that they had experienced unwanted physical advances like unwelcome hugging, touching, kissing or invasion of personal space.
Such incidents were not a one-off for many, with 11% of nurses saying harassment happened often, while 21% said they experienced harassment occasionally.
Some said they were expected to put up with abusive behaviour because it was seen as “just part of the job”.
Almost three in five (58%) of those who had been harassed said it was by a patient, 26% said they had been harassed by medical colleagues, a similar proportion (24%) by other nursing colleagues and 19% said that they had been harassed by family and friends of patients.
One community nurse who took part in the survey said: “Sexual harassment needs to be viewed as a more serious offence than it currently is.
“The response I got from my manager and colleagues was, ‘well, that’s just part of the job’. It isn’t. It’s offensive and abusive and makes you feel scared to go to work.”
Hilary Garratt, deputy chief nursing officer for England, said: “It is completely unacceptable for any member of staff to be subjected to abuse or harassment or be made to feel uncomfortable while caring for patients and their families.
“The NHS is committed to creating a positive work environment and we would encourage all affected staff to speak up so that we can provide the support they need.”