Dr. Dowling is president of Dowling Medical Director Services, a private health care consulting firm specializing in quality improvement, clinical informatics, and health care policy affecting specialty care. He is the former medical director of a large,
Clear policies and compliance training will help keep harassment from happening.
Sexual harassment is common, costly, and transcends all professions and trades. In the first article in this two-part series (“Medical field no stranger to sexual harassment”), I outlined the definition and incidence of sexual harassment. In this article, I will describe some strategies to prevent it from happening in the first place. Also included are tools and resources. This article is based largely on a recent report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and recommendations contained therein (bit.ly/EEOCreport).
Prevention strategy 1:Build and sustain a culture of leadership and accountability. Examples include:
Also by Dr. Dowling: How will regulatory changes affect EHR use in your practice?
Prevention strategy 2:Develop and maintain anti-harassment policies and procedures. The policy should:
Prevention strategy 3:Compliance training. Training should:
There are many resources available for training-try searching “sexual harassment compliance training” on Google and YouTube.
Next:Specialized trainingPrevention strategy 4: Specialized training. The EEOC report calls out two types of training that may be effective in preventing harassment in the workplace:
Workplace civility training. According to the EEOC, this focuses on “establishing expectations of civility and respect in the workplace, and on providing management and employees the tools they need to meet such expectations. The beauty of workplace civility training is that it is focused on the positive-what employees and managers should do, rather than on what they should not do. In addition, by appealing to all individuals in the workplace, regardless of social identity or perceived proclivity to harass, civility training might avoid some of the resistance met by interventions exclusively targeting harassment.” For more, see bit.ly/EEOCtrainingprogram.
Bystander intervention training. This is a tool commonly employed on campuses to prevent violent sexual assault that addresses the empowerment of witnesses and bystanders. The EEOC recommends its potential inclusion in other workplace environments’ training programs. For more, see a list of available programs compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at bit.ly/Preventionstrategies.
Bottom line: Prevention is the most powerful strategy to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Whether you are a practice owner, employer, employee, or a medical staff member in a hospital, you should be aware of the potential for sexual harassment in the medical workplace and the effective methods of prevention.