Dartmouth-Hitchcock joins sexual assault prevention effort

by Grayce Gibbs | 3/28/19 2:10am

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Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was among the first seven signatories for the Time's Up Healthcare initiative. 

(Courtesy of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center)

Source: The Dartmouth

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is increasing its efforts to bring safety, equity and dignity to the workplace as part of the Time’s Up Healthcare campaign.  

Time’s Up Healthcare launched on March 1 as part of the larger Time’s Up movement started by a group of women in the entertainment industry following the emergence of the #MeToo movement . DHMC was among the initial seven signatories — there are now 12 — that pledged their commitment to preventing sexual assault and gender discrimination in the healthcare field. 

Megan Coylewright, a professor of medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine and interventional cardiologist at DHMC, was among the 50 founding members of Time’s Up Healthcare initiative. 

Coylewright said that after Time’s Up launched in the entertainment industry, issues with sexual harassment and gender discrimination in other industries have come to light. Since the launch of the original Time’s Up campaign, separate organizations including Time’s Up Advertising and Time’s Up Tech have also formed. 

“Different areas and different places of work began to focus in on what’s unique for their area and what might be ways to accomplish a goal of a safe, equitable and dignified workplace,” Coylewright said. 

Nurses, administrators, physicians and other health care workers have been focused on Time’s Up Healthcare for the past year in preparation for its March launch, Coylewright said. She added that the members have worked together to define the best practices in the workplace regarding prevention of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. 

According to Coylewright, when a healthcare system becomes a signatory on Time’s Up Healthcare, they indicate a commitment to the main tenants of Time’s Up Health Care. In addition to DHMC, signatories include Boston University, Brown University, The Mayo Clinic, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and the Yale School of Medicine.

The core statements of Time’s Up Healthcare state that sexual harassment and gender inequity have no place in the workplace and that the health care system must be committed to preventing sexual harassment and gender inequity, as well as protecting and aiding those who are targets of harassment and discrimination. 

Part of the signatory letter signed by DHMC CEO and president Joanne Conroy ’77 states that “we cannot address an issue without understanding its scope and its impact.” In order to do this, she wrote, DHMC has committed to measuring and tracking sexual harassment and gender-based inequities that occur within the institution.

“The first step is to identify the scope of this problem and then we can identify best practices, which is the role of Time’s Up Healthcare — to help health systems share what’s been effective, and then we can measure our successes based on those initiatives,” Coylewright said.

The Time’s Up Healthcare steering committee, on which chief nursing officer at Coastal Healthcare Alliance Tiffany Love serves as a member, is tasked with aiding the direction and strategy of the movement.  

“Right now, our focus has been on increasing awareness of the statistics,” Love said. “Even people who work in healthcare might not have an awareness of how pervasive the problem is. When you are in the culture for so many years, you tend to become desensitized to the harassment you witness on the day-to-day.” 

She added that the group is also in the process of creating a structure to help organizations strategically address each case of sexual harassment or gender inequity. 

According to Time’s Up Healthcare founding member and professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine Lynn Fiellin, there have been a number of ongoing issues at the Yale School of Medicine that have infiltrated the press over the last few years surrounding the issues of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. 

“It felt very compelling to have something concrete established that has a strong likelihood of actually having an impact on issues around safety and equity in healthcare,” Fiellin said. 

Similarly to DHMC, the Yale School of Medicine is now in the process of collecting more data and increasing the transparency around issues of sexual harassment, safety and gender equity with their institution. Fiellin said that she has been engaging with different signatory institutions and partners who are committing to working with Time’s Up Healthcare. As part of this commitment, the institutions will design and establish systems to address and better understand these issues. 

“In the case of Yale, there had been a lot of stories in the press and unrest within the Yale community about what had been going on at Yale,” Fiellin said. “I think that [joining Time’s Up Healthcare] was felt to be an open door that leadership could walk through and make a concrete effort to — in collaboration with this national organization and this growing network ­— really create something that is meaningful, sustainable and effective.” 

According to Coylewright, one of the reasons that many of the initial 50 founders became involved in Time’s Up Healthcare was the publication of a variety of high-profile manuscripts in top medical journals about gender equity and sexual assault within the healthcare industry. In mid-February, The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, dedicated an entire issue to sexual harassment and gender inequity in the healthcare workforce. 

“This provided a lot of important background to understand the scope of the problem,” Coylewright said. “We’re at a point now that we can all agree: Medicine and health care do have a problem that needs to be addressed in regard to sexual harassment and gender inequity.”

Yet the problem is not immeasurable, Coylewright said. 

“We’re all scientists at the core, and we’re very data-driven, so when we had a series of high-profile science reports and manuscripts showing data that could not be refuted about the problem, it called us to gather together to figure out what we could do,” Coylewright said.