Nurses are being masturbated on and threatened with rape by patients, ranked for attractiveness by co-workers and sexually harassed by doctors.

Shameful reports of incidents in the state's hospitals has fired up the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union' chief, who vows that "enough is enough" and all of their 60,000 members deserve to go to work feeling safe.

Both the QNMU and the Nurses' Professional Association Queensland report that the majority of the near 80,000 nurses working in the state in both public and private hospitals most likely have been sexually harassed at some time in their careers. Both organisations are adopting a zero-tolerance policy.

Nurses are encouraged to take out their own indemnity insurance for cases where it is a "her word against his" situation.

Male nurses are also targets of sexual harassment.

QNMU secretary Beth Mohle said that while most harassment comes from patients there is also an imbalance of power in hospitals and there are times when doctors and others in authority can take advantage of nurses.

Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union secretary Beth Mohle
Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union secretary Beth Mohle

"There needs to be change," Ms Mohle said.

"Our union will go to all lengths to protect nurses, and we will take action and follow through to the Industrial Relations Commission.

"We have done it before when a senior medic did not take complaints against him seriously.

"In many instances the nurses are well supported but some hospitals are better than others.

"There is a system in place where a nurse in a difficult situation will be chaperoned or a particular gender assigned to a patient."

Ms Mohle yesterday told The Courier-Mail she was in communication with a female nurse who was petrified after a rape threat from a patient.

"She had to take shifts off work as she was so terrified," Ms Mohle said.

"These incidents are current and not uncommon."

A Queensland registered nurse, who wished to be anonymous, said he had witnessed cases where both male and females were sexually harassed by intoxicated patients during their shifts.

"There have been numerous instances where patients have pleasured themselves in full view of staff caring for them which is disturbing," he said.

"I have heard of male staff rating their female counterparts based on their appearance.

"I have also seen the same from female nursing staff back at their colleague male nurses."

Nurses Professional Association Queensland executive Marg Gilbert
Nurses Professional Association Queensland executive Marg Gilbert

Nurses' Professional Association of Queensland executive and veteran nurse Marg Gilbert said nurses always had to be on guard against assaults and unwelcome attention from some patients with cognitive impairments who did not realise they were crossing boundaries.

"There is a system in place where cases are managed with chaperones or reassignment," she said.

"Nurses who work on help lines have indicated they have been harassed by callers.

"There is a zero-tolerance policy for this and another harassment.

"I think that nurses have a great sense of collegiate spirit and look out for each other in difficult circumstances."

A Queensland Health spokesman slammed the behaviour as disgraceful.

"Our health heroes on the front line do not go to work to be assaulted or threatened," he said.

"We take these claims very seriously and ensure any report by staff is investigated thoroughly and appropriate action is taken.

"We want any staff member who experiences or sees this behaviour to report it."

The Australian Private Hospitals Association said it had no role in HR issues and was not aware of any of the claims made, but it deplored the harassment of nurses.

Originally published as Nurses masturbated on by patients, harassed by colleagues



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