June 2019

Preventing patient sexual abuse

“I felt violated.”

“I was scared about future care I was going to get from that nurse.”

“I felt vulnerable and ashamed.”

“I was devastated.”

      – Quotes from patients reporting sexual abuse to CNO.

Patients should never experience any form of abuse from a nurse.

Sexual abuse causes patients significant harm. While the vast majority of nurses do not harm their patients, the fact that any sexual abuse by nurses exists tells us that we need more education and prevention. We believe that even one case of sexual abuse is one too many.

In order to stop sexual abuse before it happens, we decided to learn more about what causes a nurse to abuse a patient. Over a year ago, we began a research study with the goal of identifying common trends that can lead to abuse. Over the course of our research, we reviewed all the sexual abuse reports we received between 2000-2017 — about 280 sexual abuse matters.

Through our research, we learned that it’s the most vulnerable patients, such as those with mental health issues and the elderly, who are most likely to be victims. We also learned that abusers use grooming techniques to draw in their victims, such as the abuser paying special attention to or sharing personal information with the patient. To learn more about this research and our findings, visit our Sexual Abuse page.

CNO exists to protect the public and we will be working with our partners in safety, including nurses, to address the issue of sexual abuse. We want to make sure all nurses know the warning signs of sexual abuse so that they can advocate for their patients. That’s why over the coming months we will be publishing a series of new tools and resources based on our research that nurses, employers, and others involved in patient care can use.

Look for this new information in The Standard, on our Trending Topics page and on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds.

By sharing what we learn, we can work together to prevent sexual abuse.

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