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Patient safety


A HIDDEN DANGER


Recognizing and reducing the risk of sexual abuse in healthcare settings is a challenge, but one that should not be ignored,writes Michelle Foster Earle, president of OmniSure Consulting Group.


S


ocial service organizations, religious institutions, and schools are very familiar with sexual abuse liability insurance. When making risk and insurance decisions, highly publicized claims such as those involving the Catholic Church, Penn State Coach Jerry


Sandusky, and teachers caught up in scandalous relationships with students make it easy for brokers to explain why such protection is necessary.


Schools, youth organizations, and churches are highly trusted


institutions focused on equipping and helping people who are in their formative years or who are seeking guidance. That’s why most people are happy to submit to a series of criminal background checks before working with the babies in the nursery at church, leading a group at girls’ camp, or volunteering at a child’s school. No one wants to make it easy for predators to gain access to vulnerable children by way of an 


Children are not the only ones perceived as easy targets because of their vulnerability and powerlessness. In the past 10 years, attention has turned to the elderly, whose physical limitations, medical conditions, and       nursing homes required to conduct background checks on workers because


the elderly are at high risk of being abused, but nursing homes in some states are also required to perform background checks on new or potential clients.


Advocacy groups have created websites dedicated to exposing sexual


predators living in long term care settings and to educating consumers about the dangers and signs of potential abuse. It is common for people  and vulnerable adults.


However, when was the last time you heard of a consumer checking


 medical care at a hospital, medical facility, or clinic? Better yet, when was the last time your healthcare organization took a look at its own policies, procedures, processes, and protocols to prevent sexual abuse and molestation at your facility?


THE HEALTHCARE SETTING What sets the stage for the risk of sexual abuse and liability in a healthcare setting? We can start with patient vulnerability, therapeutic    power, professional boundaries, and professional codes of conduct.


Annual 2014 | HEALTHCARE RISK MANAGEMENT REVIEW | 67


ALL IMAGES: SEAN LOCKE PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM


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