December 19, 2017

VIDEO: Nurse Sues Surgeon Over Alleged Violent Attack

“I know I can do this because you like the abuse,” those are the words Nurse Paula Rickey alleges Eye Surgeon Dr. Kerry Assil said to her after he physically assaulted her. 

The incident happened last June at 90210 Surgery Center, a Cedars- Sinai Medical Center affiliate. The assault was partially caught on video surveillance.

According to video evidence, Kerry violently pushed Rickey in the back of the head, then followed her to the bathroom. 

"As I was walking out of the operating suite he came up behind me, shoved the back of my head violently and then I stopped in front of a bathroom and stood there,” says Rickey.

Nurse Paula Rickey has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Kerry Assil. 

She says the hospital reprimanded her and not Dr. Assil. After an investigation was conducted, Rickey was reportedly moved to another floor. She also claims her work hours were decreased.  

"After that, they accommodated him. They made me work on a separate floor. My work hours were reduced because of that," says Rickey. She has stopped working as a nurse since deciding to file the lawsuit.

Sexual Harassment Claims

According to the lawsuit, there’s more to the story, including sexual exploitation claims. 

Assil exhibited an interest in the sexual exploitation of Rickey, and that Assil’s sexual desires toward Rickey were a substantial factor motivating Assil’s batteries on Rickey,” states the lawsuit. 

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center released a statement on the case, “we take great care to protect Cedars-Sinai employees as they do their work, and that means we take complaints seriously, investigate them thoroughly and act promptly."

Nurse Rickey is fearful that the lawsuit will affect her ability to find gainful employment in the Los Angeles area, dominated by Cedars Sinai. 

Women In Medicine Share Stories Of Abuse With Hashtag #MeTooMedicine

Nurse Rickey’s lawsuit is one of the more public cases of sexual harassment in healthcare. Many healthcare workers do not report employment related abuse. Much like the anonymous hospital worker featured on TIME Magazine’s 2017 cover, they might fear the consequences to their livelihood. 

The conversation surrounding sexual and physical abuse against nurses and those who work in medicine has started. It continues to grow as social media users bring awareness to the abuse.  

According to JAMA Network, 30% of clinician-researchers reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, compared to only 4% of men. 

The hashtag #metoomedicine is gaining popularity on Twitter with women sharing their stories of sexual harassment within medical work settings. 

Dr. Reshma Jagsi wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine about sexual harassment in medicine. "My intuition is that the problem is at least as bad in medicine as elsewhere," stated Jagsi. According to her, sexual harassment in medicine is due to many factors including:

  • Medicine's history of male domination,
  • Late working hours,
  • Easy access to empty rooms,
  • Hierarchical structure

Dr. Jen Gunter wrote this blog post about being groped by an Editor of an Ob/Gyn Journal and many other women have chimed in on the discussion. 

Johns Hopkins Surgery used Twitter to voice their support of the hashtag #metoomedicine and hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon

Harassment in the healthcare workplace is not new, it happens more than we like to admit - with medical workers being harassed by patients, co-workers and superiors alike. We discussed the topic of sexual harassment in nursing in this article after news broke about the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations. 

Rickey hopes her lawsuit will help empower women in medicine, "I came forward to try to help other women who either have been victimized by him or by other physicians,” says Rickey. 

NEXT UP: Why Did TIME Crop This Hospital Worker From The 2017 "Silence Breaker" Cover?

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