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Women experience higher rates of gender-based workplace violence in health care

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Researchers found that women in the health care workforce are more likely than men to experience verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and bullying.

Women experience higher rates of gender-based violence : © ronstik - stock.adobe.com

Women experience higher rates of gender-based violence : © ronstik - stock.adobe.com

In health care, gender-based violence can impact all levels of the workforce, such as the individual provider, organization, and society. Even with increased research on gender-based violence in the health workforce, gender-based violence still receives less attention. Violence in the workplace, as well as society, is rooted in gendered socio-economic, cultural, and institutional factors. While this issue can affect people of all genders, it mostly affects women.

A recent report on the prevalence and risk factors of gender-based violence in health care settings globally was conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto. The researchers found that women in the health care workforce are more likely than men to experience verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and bullying. Meanwhile, men experience more physical violence.

Other factors that were sensitive to gender included younger age, less experience, shifting duties, specific clinical settings, lower professional status, organizational hierarchy, and minority status reflected women’s structural disadvantages in the workplace as well.

The specific objectives of the study were to map the most frequent forms and prevalence of gender-based violence for midwives, nurses, and physicians in different contexts and clinical settings, to identify the gendered dimensions of the health workforce that underpin violence again male or female health workers, and to identify gaps in the state of knowledge to recommend empirical research studies.

226 participants were included in the report, with 50% being physicians and 22% nurses, while 28% were other professions in health care. These responses included 64% of participants reporting a higher prevalence for women participants for all forms of violence as opposed to 17% of participants reporting a higher prevalence for men participants.

Additionally, 19% of the 185 reported a higher prevalence of various forms of violence for either men or women, such as in countries like India, where physical violence was higher for men (16%) than women (4%).

Following the study, the researchers came to several conclusions. Overall, 64% of participants reported a higher prevalence of all forms of gender-based violence for women, including sexual violence, verbal abuse, discrimination, bulling, and physical violence. Meanwhile, only 17% of the descriptive studies reported a higher prevalence in men with gender-based violence, including physical violence, verbal violence, bullying, and sexual violence. The remaining 19% of participants reported a higher prevalence for multiple forms of gender-based violence, either for men or women.

According to the researchers, the study proves how gender-based violence is symptomatic of broader societal injustices because of sexism and discrimination. This in turn affects marginalized groups, including women, on a global scale. Power imbalances in health care create unwelcoming environments for women, where their voices are often marginalized, their concerns dismissed, and their experiences of violence questioned.

Overall, this new research warns of the repercussions of gender-based violence, which is resulting in substantial provider attrition, compromised patient care, and an overburdened health care infrastructure struggling to meet societal needs.

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