Preventing sexual harassment requires more than just a policy

While having a sexual harassment policy is necessary if you want to stop this behavior, CEOs often believe (mistakenly) that a good policy and HR department will prevent and mitigate any allegations, says Kate Fenner, PhD, RN, managing director of Compass Clinical Consulting.

“Good policy is necessary but not sufficient,” she says. “Hospitals need to have developed a thoughtful procedure for prevention, detection, and remediation of allegations. Policy is a first step; however, education, communication, and uniform, fair enforcement are also necessary components, many of which are overlooked in this process.”

Hospitals often reflect a distanced and disinterested attitude toward harassment, says Fenner. That “head-in-the-sand” approach can lead to being blindsided by significant incidents and the cost, time, and controversy that follow.

So how can hospitals demonstrate they are taking sexual harassment claims seriously? For starters, she says, any allegation of sexual harassment merits a thorough, rapid, and appropriate response.

“Whether a complaint from a surgical nurse, patient, or visitor, the response must be robust, multidisciplinary, and timely,” Fenner says. “There’s no such thing as a minor incident. Multiple avenues for preventing and detecting harassment are required.”