Keywords: Quality improvement, menstrual health, period poverty
An estimated three quarters of the Health Service Executive’s employees are female. It is a fact that at any time some of these employees are working while menstruating. This is not a new development, but recent studies have highlighted the issue and impact.
In 2016, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free. While this tackles period poverty, accessibility to sanitary products when and where they are needed is an issue.
We distributed an online survey to healthcare workers across different hospital sites in Ireland. Participants were asked about their ability to access sanitary products while working and their experiences with menstruation in the workplace.
N=57. Respondents identified as healthcare professionals, working in different areas; theatre/procedural areas to clinics, wards and critical care. 83% (47) reported difficulty accessing sanitary products at work. 88% (50) carried their own products with them at all times. 28% (15) reported purchasing sanitary products in hospital shops, while 59% (33) had to ask friends or colleagues for assistance. 100% (57) of respondents felt sanitary products should be made available in the workplace. Participants reported limitations of access, leaving clinical roles to obtain products, bleeding through clothes during working hours and a lack of privacy as significant stressors.
We presented our findings to the Spark Innovation programme and were granted funding for a pilot in University Hospital Waterford. We are supplying sanitary products in staff bathrooms, free of charge, near clinical areas maximising convenience of access, using staff surveys of satisfaction to gauge response to the initiative. In conclusion, healthcare workers menstruating at work have to carry sanitary products on their person and not doing so can cause inconvenience and disruption to clinical duties. Our pilot will provide further data that providing sanitary products in clinical workplaces is a worthwhile initiative