BACKGROUND. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a prevalent form of impermissible sex discrimination in employment. The high profile of this issue in the media, together with laws prohibiting sexual harassment, have not prevented this problem for working nurses. OBJECTIVES. To describe and determine the extent of sexual harassment incidents experienced by nurses working in critical care areas, and to determine attitudes about, and presence of policies regarding, sexual harassment in hospitals. METHODS. For this descriptive study the federal government's definition of sexual harassment and a list of sexually harassing behaviors was mailed with a survey to 188 critical care nurses. RESULTS. Findings indicated that 46% of the respondents had been harassed. Offensive sexual remarks (56%), unwanted physical contact (53%), unwanted nonverbal attention (27%), requests for dates (16%), and sexual propositions (9%) were types of sexual harassment experienced. Sexual assault was experienced by one woman. Harassers were physicians (82%), coworkers (20%), or immediate supervisors (7%). A majority of the incidents (69%) were not reported. Most nurses (80%) had not received training, nor were there policies and procedures to follow in most cases for reporting harassment. CONCLUSIONS. These results suggest that many critical care nurses are harassed and that relatively few hospitals have sexual harassment policies known to employees. They also indicate that sexual harassment training, policies, and procedures are needed to provide a safe, healthy work environment for critical care nurses.

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