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Risks of Gender Neutral Nursing Assignments

The medical profession is generally thought of as gender neutral. In his article “Patient Gender Preferences in Healthcare”, Dr. Joel Sherman argues “Modern medicine is assumed to be gender neutral, that is providers, nurses and assistants are equally able to offer their services to all comers no matter the genders involved” While it may be true that the mechanics of medical care can be provided by either gender to patients of either gender, there are two important issues hospital administration should consider if “patient centered care” is truly a priority.

1.) Many patients have gender preferences particularly for intimate care.

2.) The potential for abuse during intimate care is great particularly when patients are compromised either by medication or by their physical condition.

Thus, hospitals should think carefully about how they assign their staff to care for patients.

Many patients and family members are unaware about how gender neutral hospitals have become until they or a loved one is hospitalized. Today it is very common for a male nurse, for example, to give a female patient a bath or to administer intimate procedures (e.g. urinary catheterization or vaginal prep for surgery) without the patient’s or family’s knowledge or consent. Male patients also endure intimate care from female nurses against their wishes.

Some Labor & Delivery and gynecology departments at hospitals have a policy prohibiting male nurses in their departments. This is very wise because many women would be very upset about having male nurses involved in their care. Especially since Labor & Delivery nurses are required to participate in many intimate procedures that involve constant contact with a woman’s genitalia including checking the cervix for dilation, shaving the perineum, giving an enema, changing pads, assisting in the expulsion of the enema, inserting urinary catheters for women who have C-Sections and other gynecological surgeries, and sterilizing the vaginal area. The birth of a baby is a very special time, and L & D units should strive to make women’s experiences as positive as possible. There is a big demand for more male nurses to work with male patients who are modest and uncomfortable with a female nurse. L & D units and gynecology departments should always encourage interested male nurse applicants to apply in other departments at the hospitals or urology clinics, because many male patients feel there are not enough male nurses to accommodate their male intimate health issues.

Labor & Delivery and gynecology departments are also taking a high risk when they hire a male nurse, because there is potential for sexual abuse. They can face potential lawsuits from women and their families who request that only female nurses or assistants be included in their care. This could as a result give the hospital bad publicity. We believe that only female nurses should be allowed to work in the L & D and gynecology departments. A thirty-four year old lady, Courtney Rosenberg recovering from surgery to remove an ovarian cyst was sexually abused by a male nursing assistant at a hospital in the Los Angeles area (See Jury Awards Woman $65M In Punitive Damages After She’s Sexually Abused At Tarzana Hospital for full details). There were also other victims the male nursing assistant abused. Other women had complained about the abuse, but the hospital did nothing. Rosenberg sued the hospital, and the jury awarded her $65 Million in punitive damages. No amount of money can bring comfort to sexually abused women. This case only goes to show why male nurses and nursing assistants should not be permitted to work in Labor & Delivery and gynecology departments and do intimate procedures on women.

Departments such as cardiac heart unit, ICU, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, and psychiatric that serve both female and male patients should hire nurses of both genders. There should be plenty of male and female nurses available to accommodate patients of both genders at all times. It is wonderful that we have an increase of male nurses, but there is a very serious problem as a result. Many nursing departments randomly assign nurses to patients regardless of their genders for intimate procedures without the patient’s or family’s consent. It is very common today for male nurses to give women a bath. This is strange because there are plenty of female nurses around that could give women a bath. Male nurses should only be allowed to give men a bath and do intimate procedures on them such as urinary catheterizations and preparing private parts for intimate male procedures because of potential sexual abuse. Male nurses can certainly help with non-intimate procedures on women such as changing IV lines, lifting them, administering medicine, giving shots, etc.

Many male patients feel very strongly against having a female nurse for intimate male procedures, and hospitals should work hard to accommodate men’s wishes for modesty by having enough male nurses available for that reason. Many men are less likely than women to speak up about how they feel about their modesty, because men usually do not like to communicate their feelings about personal matters. Many men actually avoid medical treatments due to concerns about their modesty. Men should always have the option of having a male nurse for intimate procedures if they wish. Many men actually prefer that their wives give them a bath in hospital, and medical professionals should respect their wishes and allow wives to bathe their husbands in privacy. It is certainly possible for female nurses to sexually abuse male patients, but it is rarer.

It is wise for hospitals and nursing homes to make a policy prohibiting male nurses and assistants from doing any intimate procedures on female patients to prevent sexual abuse and meet women’s wishes for modesty.

Some hospitals and nursing homes may use an excuse about using a male nurse or assistant to assist women in the following situations:

1.) A male nurse has to assist in bathing some women for the purpose of lifting them and ensuring that they are not dropped. This is not true. Due to the potential of sexual abuse, this is very risky. A female nurse or assistant should always bathe a woman. A male nurse or assistant could help to lift a clothed woman in the bathtub if necessary and leave while a female nurse or assistant bathes her. Then the female nurse could call for the male assistant to come back to get her out of the bathtub after the woman has been dressed. Sponge baths can be given to very frail patients in their beds, requiring no lifting or male assistance whatsoever.


2.) A male nurse or assistant has to help lift an obese woman on the operating table for gynecological surgery to ensure she is not dropped. A female patient could stay clothed while being lifted by a male nurse. He could leave after he has done his job. A female nurse can easily strip her once she is on the table.

Many nursing homes have some male nurses and assistants, and this is wonderful for elderly male patients who are not comfortable with female nurses or assistants. But at the same time, this is bad for female patients. Nursing homes should never assign male nurses or assistants to female patients for intimate care tasks such as bathing, changing diapers, dressing, and cleaning women’s private parts after bowel movements, etc due to potential sexual abuse. Nursing homes could lose a lot of money if sexual abuse happens. Many male nurses and assistants have sexually abused elderly female nursing home residents. You constantly hear of cases of sexual abuse by male nurses and assistants at nursing homes in the news. Many people falsely assume that elderly people do not care about their modesty. Many female nursing residents would not even allow their sons, grandsons, and male relatives help them with intimate care tasks. Why should they have to give up their boundaries about men not helping them with intimate care in nursing home and hospital settings? Nursing homes certainly should continue to hire male nurses and assistants to work with male patients for intimate care. Male nurses and assistants can certainly work with female patients, but they should have no contact with female patients’ private parts to ensure that sexual abuse does not happen or the patient’s modesty is violated. “Elderly nursing home residents are easy prey for sexual predators, because they are often weak and defenseless. They may also fall victim to sexual abuse because they had a stroke or other medical condition that caused them to lose their speech or motor skills. When a nursing home resident is unable to protect themselves or speak, the likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual abuse increases.” (Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes – Edgar Synder & Associates)

A number of relatives of elderly female family members have expressed how upset they were to find that their female relatives had male nurses or assistants for intimate care in nursing homes. Here is a short list of cases:

1.) A son who was disturbed about his elderly mother having a male nurse: “My mother who was hospitalized with a broken hip. She was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. One day, I visited her room to find a male nurse cleaning her up after a bowel movement. She was highly agitated and terrified. My Dad, who was present, had not protested, so I didn't say anything. I cannot believe that I was such a coward. Mother passed away five years ago, and I have not gotten over the regret of not speaking up for her. Given the opportunity again, I would have insisted on female nurses and aides ONLY!

2.) A college student shared this about her grandmother: “I have a grandmother in a nursing home that requires help bathing, changing, and assistance in the restroom. She is also not completely there in her mind. She can easily be taken advantage of and cared for by a male. The position my grandmother's in is already degrading enough, but to have a male nurse taking care of her and seeing her exposed is wrong in many ways. My family does not want to have a male nurse taking care of her because of the degrading and immoral nature of the situation.”

Hospitals and nursing homes would be much safer if they had policies prohibiting male nurses and assistants from participating in intimate care of female patients. It is important that hospitals and nursing homes work to ensure that female patients are not sexually abused. Male nurses and assistants have plenty of work with modest male patients. Medical facilities need to stop giving gender neutral nursing assignments for intimate care to protect patients from sexual abuse and to respect many patients’ wishes about only having same gender intimate care. Male nurses and assistants should continue to be hired to help with intimate male care and non-intimate care for women such as administering medicine, fixing IV lines, etc. The number of sexual abuse cases and lawsuits would go down significantly when medical facilities set policies prohibiting opposite sex intimate care. Some hospitals have lost millions of dollars as result of lawsuits due to sexual abuse by male nurses or assistants.

Check out some sexual abuse cases in the mainstream news:

1.) Illinois hospital sued for male nurse's sexual assault of patient – A burn ward patient objected to a male nurse who groped her while washing her, but he said that he was just doing his job. After this, the nurse briefly left the patient's room. He returned a short time later, climbed on top of her, and assaulted the patient by having non-consensual sex with her. She was in a vulnerable position because she had a difficult recovery.

2.) Ex-patient suing Bethesda Memorial Hospital for alleged sexual assault by a male nurse and Woman Suing Hospital, Says Male Nurse Touched Her Inappropriately - A female patient who was treated for dehydration was sexually abused by a male nurse in her hospital bed. This male nurse had no criminal history. This proves that even male nurses with no criminal history can easily sexually abuse a female patient.

3.) Jury Awards Woman $65M In Punitive Damages After She’s Sexually Abused At Tarzana Hospital – A 34 year old lady recovering from ovarian cyst removal surgery was sexually abused by a male nursing assistant. This is exactly why it is wise to not permit male nurses or assistants to work in women’s health services.

4.) D.A.: Nurse's assistant molested women in his care – A male nurse assistant sexually abused several women at a rehabilitation center.

5.) Nurse Molested Female Patients in Emergency Room - A male nurse is allegedly sexually assaulting two women in the emergency room three years apart. He molested one woman after giving her pain medicine that caused her to pass out.

6.) Elderly Abuse Nursing Home Law Center – Sexual Abuse – This article lists some cases where male nurse assistants sexually abused elderly female nursing home residents. In one nursing home in California, a male nurse aide sexually abused two female patients while giving them a bath. This is exactly why nursing homes should not allow male nurses or aides to give female residents a bath.

7. ) Nursing home residents abused – Sexual assault of female nursing home residents is very common. This article discusses how a 71 year old woman with advanced dementia was raped in her bed by a male nurse.

8.) Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes - This article illustrates that the one of the most common types of abuse in nursing homes is sexual abuse.


 

 
     
   
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