Nurses: Unwritten Rules for Dating Physicians and Patients

Nurses: Unwritten Rules for Dating Physicians and Patients

Given the long hours spent on the job, sooner or later there is bound to be a love interest. Depending upon your point of view, this may be a benefit or a pitfall of the job. In any case, if you are a nurse interested in dating co-workers, including physicians, there are certain rules of the road you should be aware of.

Dating a Patient

This is especially sticky. A fine line is whether the patient was actually your patient or on your unit. Allnurses.com advises nurses to remember they are bound by the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics: “It tells us when there’s a conflict between personal values and professional values, the conflict must always be addressed in a way that puts our patients’ safety and concerns first. The intimate nature of nursing can lead to a risk of boundary violations and it’s up to the nurse to establish the boundaries. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) there are questions to help determine the appropriateness of dating a patient and guide professional boundaries.

  • How long ago was the nurse-patient relationship? If it’s current, dating is prohibited.
  • Was the care provided extensive? A one-day stay in the hospital is different than a two-week stay.
  • Is there a chance he’ll be your patient in the future?

Before dating a present or past patient it seems wise to carefully read the board of ethics policy, regulations in your state of practice, and become familiar with the regulations of the healthcare facility in which you practice.

Dating a Doctor

This is a complex situation. You may want to date a doctor, but before you do, you have to ask what you will do and how you will work with him or her if the relationship doesn’t work out. Will you still be able to work with that person? Will you still be able to collaborate on the care of patients?

Nurse.org says there are more reasons for nurses not to date physicians than to date them. This is by no means a list of insults levied against physicians. Rather, it’s a reality check of how the demands on new physicians seriously cut into dating quality.

  • Crazy schedules: If you date someone who is an intern or resident they have crazy schedules and work most of the time. That is not conducive to a solid relationship or a steady dating schedule.
  • Gossip: Now you become the subject of workplace gossip. Are they together? Where did they go? Did they spend last night together? It’s a distraction from your work. It also could harm your career. You probably don’t need any of that.
  • Student Debt Recovery: Student loans and massive debt don’t add up to expendable income. If you like picnics in the park and cooking at home you may be ok. However, most will agree the massive school debt that is racked up by most medical students doesn’t leave much room for high priced romantic restaurants or dinner boat cruises.
  • Special occasions: If you like lots of personal attention you may not get it from a physician who is beginning his or her career. Schedules are set in stone and are not up to negotiating because it is your birthday or anniversary. It is truly all about the hospital at the outset and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for personal time.

If you look for laws and regulation on this topic you won’t find a lot. It all comes back to the ethics of the situation. That, and common sense have to be your guide.

However, no matter how you look at it things are certainly better than they were in 1887. Back then nursing rule # 6 said: “Graduate nurses in good standing with the director of nurses will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if you go regularly to church.”