Trigger Warning, Mentions of SA and other sensitive topics
Scrubs. A dignified word. People assume that those who wear scrubs would automatically get respect because of their positions, little do they know what happens behind the scenes and how much the working population in the healthcare sector suffer. They are true survivors, Surviving in Scrubs.
The Surviving in Scrubs campaign was launched by two doctors, GP Dr Becky Cox and emergency medicine specialist trainee Dr Chelcie Jewitt, who wanted to raise awareness of the “culture of misogyny” that endures in many areas of the healthcare profession. They were appalled by a British Medical Association (BMA) report1 which found that 91% of female doctors had experienced sexism in the last two years and that 47% of them believed they had been treated less favourably because of their gender. More than half of the women (56%) claimed to have experienced improper verbal harassment, and 31% claimed to have encountered inappropriate physical behaviour.
Whilst being interviewed by FemLegal, Dr Jewitt stated the following:
“We are not talking just about doctors, which is very much what the BMA report was talking about, we are looking at all within healthcare: nurses, physios, anyone. We've created Surviving in Scrubs, an online platform, where people can anonymously submit their stories and testimonies about their experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace”
During the conversation with Dr Cox and Dr Jewitt, it became evident that most of the perpetrators in these situations are male, which fits the narrative that sexual abuse and harassment are fuelled by gender inequality. However, that is not to say that women cannot and do not perpetrate these crimes, as Dr Jewitt explains:
“The difficulty we have is there isn't much evidence around this. This is kind of one of the reasons why we started Surviving in Scrubs. The only real evidence we do have goes back to the BMA report and that shows mainly male perpetrators. That's why we don't have exact figures, unfortunately.”
Despite this, a few patterns have emerged from the more than 120 stories present on their page, one of which being the blatant misogyny and abuse that is present in specialities such as surgery. People have also reported having issues with the General Medical Council (GMC), explaining how their concerns or complaints were not being investigated or taken seriously.
At present, the GMC’s ‘good medical practice’ guidance contains nothing about sexism or misogyny. According to Dr Cox, it merely mentions that doctors should treat everyone with respect - this isn't good enough. In light of this, Dr Cox and Dr Jewitt are actively trying to bring up this issue and negotiate with the GMC but so far there hasn't been a definitive conclusion to the issue.
They are also working with Catherine Hinwood, NHS England Lead, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Lead, to find out other common trends by creating more surveys and collecting data in order to get a clearer picture of what’s really happening.
Another key aim of Surviving in Scrubs is to establish an independent and safe reporting system. At present, there is no centralised method for reporting. This means that victims have to report an incident to the head of their individual trust, whoever that may be. Not only does this mean that there is no formal reporting process, but in some instances, that person could be the perpetrator. Thus, Dr Cox and Dr Jewitt are demanding a formal, independent, and transparent reporting process for survivors.
The Surviving in Scrubs Campaign has been a great success so far with 125 stories (as of the day of writing) being submitted to the website, as well as numerous national newspapers and well-known blogs publishing articles about the campaign to spread awareness about the issue. The response within the healthcare sector however has been varied. Dr Cox discussed how she has received a lot of encouragement, predominantly from female colleagues. However, whilst some male colleagues have openly discussed the campaign with her, she has felt that the reaction of some of her male colleagues has been either been of disbelief – thinking that it is not a problem – or humour – making light of the situation by laughing it off, or making jokes about it. Clearly, there is work to be done here.
Another interesting point to note is whether the societal predefined notion of women being more caring and nurturing meaning that women are more suited to those kinds of paid roles e.g., nursing. Dr Cox believes that stereotypes definitely play a role in how situations of sexual harassment and abuse usually play out. However, she also notes that “actually, there are more female medical graduates now than there is male. There are more and more outnumbering men. So, many stereotypes just need to die a death really, because that's not what the medical workforce or the healthcare workforce in the future is going to look like”.
Dr Jewitt added that it's not just stereotyping that is the problem, but also a glass ceiling effect with men consistently being promoted to senior positions. It’s shocking that in this day and age it's still happening. “I think the reason is an intergenerational inheritance of awful behaviours,'' she said.
Thus, through the Surviving in Scrubs campaign, Dr Jewitt and Dr Cox hope to tackle these issues by exposing the inherent sexism within the healthcare industry. To do this, they need your help. You can submit an anonymous story to their website here:
Or follow the campaign on social media:
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/scrubsurvivors/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/survivinginscrubs
Twitter - https://twitter.com/ScrubSurvivors
Interview conducted by Sydney-Anne McAllister and article written by Manasvi Madhumohan