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 a loved one, then somewhere along the line, you, too, were probably a victim of the system. I certainly was – it’s why I do the work I do today. Many other new members of APHA tell me similar stories in regards to themselves, or a loved one. Becoming an advocate is a way to prevent such travesties from happening to someone else.
Like the Time’s Up Movement, the abuse and harassment in the healthcare system is also about POWER, and power alone. Whether employee or patient, it feeds on those who are afraid to speak up and ask questions. It thrives on silence and suffering.
Unique to this hostile environment, and sickeningly so, the more disenfranchised and marginalized the victim, the more money the system makes.
And so, for many years, those of us who have moved our work into the advocacy environment have been telling the world, “No More!” We identify the pitfalls, the possible hiccups in the system, and we stand between them and clients to be sure our clients are not abused or harassed (or, God forbid, injured or killed) during their journeys.
Then we insist. We do whatever it takes to make sure we secure the best of the system, the parts that can heal and comfort, the parts that can improve one’s life.
In effect, for health and patient advocates and care managers, those words become our job description. That is our role, our raison d’etre, without regard to gender or culture or class.
And so, as we watch the women and men of Hollywood promote their movement to end abuse and harassment in the workplace, let’s take our own pledge as independent advocates to tell the healthcare system “No More!”
Let’s further pledge to support our clients by doubling down on efforts to get them exactly what they need from the system with “We Insist!”
Are you with me?
Please weigh in with your thoughts below!