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Understanding Australian female chiropractors’ experiences of inappropriate patient sexual behaviour: A study using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis

Innes, S.ORCID: 0000-0001-7783-8328, Maurice, L., Lastella, M. and O’Mullan, C. (2021) Understanding Australian female chiropractors’ experiences of inappropriate patient sexual behaviour: A study using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 29 . Article 36.

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Female practitioners are often subjected to inappropriate patient sexual behaviour (IPSB). Adverse consequences of such sexual harassment include for the practitioner psychological stress effects and negative work-related consequences that contributes to career dissatisfaction and burnout. Confronting the issue within the healthcare context has been shown to be problematic because practitioners feel an obligation to protect the therapeutic relationship above their own personal discomfort. There is an absence of research on this topic with respect to female chiropractors and we proposed a qualitative study aimed to explore female chiropractors lived experiences of managing incidents of IPSB.


An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis methodology was chosen for this study. In June and July of 2018 female chiropractors in Western Australian were recruited via Facebook sites and invited to participate in face-to-face interviews for an Honours degree study exploring the lived experience of IPSB.


Participants were seven female chiropractors currently practicing in Western Australia, who had experienced an incident of IPSB. Four super-ordinate themes emerged from the analysis; (1) familiar but inarticulable, (2) the cost of conflict, (3) I’m used to it, and (4) the element of surprise. Overall, the participants recognised the incidents as inappropriate but chose to ignore the situation as a means to avoid conflict in the treatment room. Recommendations are made to better manage IPSB including greater patient awareness of appropriate behaviour, specific curriculum content and assertiveness training in undergraduate programs and continuing professional education, as well as the creation of ethical guidelines for patient behaviour by regulatory bodies.


This is the first study to give a forum for female chiropractors to discuss their experiences of IPSB. The domain of private practice is not immune to incidents IPSB and although similar to day-to-day non-clinical life is nonetheless surprising and impactful.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Publisher: BioMed Central
Copyright: © 2021 The Authors
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