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The Patient Advocate’s Version of “Time’s Up!”
It’s no surprise to any of us women who work for a living that sexual harassment and violence have been part of the fabric of our workplaces for our entire careers. With few exceptions, we have all had our “Me Too” experiences to one degree or another. And it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for our brains to take us back there to the anger, frustration, fear, and embarrassment we felt at the time. While my intent is not to co-opt the Time’s Up Movement for women in the workplace, I cannot pass up the opportunity to point out another space where people – all people (not just women) – are being abused and harassed on a daily basis. We, as health and patient advocates, all know where that space is. Today’s question is – what are we doing about it? Of course – it’s the Healthcare System The American healthcare system was originally set up to do one thing – heal. And yet – for way too many of its employees and customers alike – it is a place of harassment and abuse. If healing happens, it’s almost by luck, rather than by design. One needs only look at the rate of death or debilitation from medical errors (killing 400,000 Americans each year) to see that it’s not safe. If you ever spent any time working within the bureaucracy of healthcare as an employee, you might have been verbally abused by co-workers – other professionals who thought they were more impressive and powerful than you. Doctors dissing nurses. Supervisors harassing workers. Professionals being told to cover up mistakes and missteps. One of the many reasons new APHA members, formerly nurses, give for wanting to become independent advocates is that they cannot tolerate the hospital or medical office environments any more. Many feel as if they have been abused in some way by the system, including abuse from patients who react in anger to the way the system is abusing them. It’s a vicious cycle. If you have spent any time accessing the healthcare system for yourself or…