The media often portrays nurses as sexy and saucy. It may seem odd when you know the reality is sore feet and varicose veins, but the image persists and can create problems when working as a nurse.
A high percentage of nurses have experienced sexual harassment at work. However, they can also face accusations themselves.
Sexual harassment is outlawed under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It covers physical acts, such as touching another person inappropriately. It also covers verbal harassment. Offering something in exchange for sex is a clear example of quid pro quo harassment: you do something for me, and I’ll do something for you. Some harassment is less overt but nonetheless creates a hostile environment for the victim. What you may consider a joke or compliment may not feel that way to the person on the receiving end of it.
The issue becomes even more serious if a nurse is accused of harassing a patient. As a nurse, you must maintain a professional working relationship with all your patients. Any breach of this will be treated as sexual misconduct by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN).
There are few other professions where you see and touch so many people who are in a state of undress. It can be easy for you to brush a body part that you do not mean to or stare too long if you see something unusual.
Seductive behavior with patients will also be considered sexual misconduct. A patient who believes the sexy nurse stereotype may try to engage you in risqué humor. If they do, it is essential to refrain and remain professional. Otherwise, someone may overhear it and complain. Even talking to a patient about dating each other could lead to charges.
Whether your conduct is defined as sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, one thing is sure. It could land you in problems with the BRN. If facing accusations, seek legal help to protect your California nursing license.