We all do remember watching those world war movies highlighting powerful love stories between nurses and soldiers. While all is perfect on-screen, have you ever wondered if something like that happens in reality. What are the odds that a nurse can find its true love in its patient?
It sounds all too goody and lovely until, of course, there are some reality checks to it. Hence, the question is, “can nurses date patients?’. Well, let’s find out if it is ethical by conduct or legally for nurses to date patients.
Nurse and Patient relationship scenario
A nurse plays one of the most crucial roles tending, taking, and providing care to a patient in a healthcare system.
Meanwhile, a patient needs care and attention while undergoing treatment/therapy in a healthcare system.
Therefore, a nurse and a patient relationship are strictly professional.
Nevertheless, It isn’t unnatural that in everyday encounters, for some sparks of emotions to occur.
While some may counter that, there is no need for any restriction to the right of whom one should date or not. However, for a nurse and patient to explore any realm beyond the professional relationship can violate professional standards.
Let’s find out more about this in the following sections.
Can nurses date patients?
Indeed, it is a personal choice for whom one chooses to date or not to date. However, the scenario with a nurse and patient taking their relationship outside the hospital walls gets tricky and inappropriate.
A nurse’s primary goal is to give the best of their experience, professional knowledge, and skills as a caregiver to a patient in need/undergoing treatment.
Concerning this, there are certain powers a nurse gets over the patients that they are treating. It includes information on sensitive and confidential medical history/ diagnosis and personal information.
Over time, a lot of trust and respect build up during a Nurse-Patient relationship. Now, crossing these boundaries can mean or indicate –
- Abuse of trust and respect and breaking the code of conduct in professional boundaries.
- Power inequality can be seen as a case of manipulation and taking advantage of the patient’s vulnerability.
- Exploring personal nurse-patient relationships can become a case of sexual misconduct according to the governing nurse board protocols.
Hence, technically the chances of a nurse dating a patient are slim – either ethically or legally.
However, there are some exceptions on the lines of a nurse dating a patient. What are those? Let’s find out in the next segment.
What are the exceptions and restrictions to nurse and patient dating?
Limited encounters – exceptional
In some scenarios, where a patient may have had a few little encounters, a nurse and a patient dating can be exceptional. It could be a current or a past meeting.
Examples include – A patient having had to make a quick trip to the ER (Emergency room) needing assistance from the nurse. These scenarios qualify for limited encounters. Another example would be a patient requiring a brief stay at the hospital for treatment and having few nurse-patient meetings.
Former patient – exceptional
In most cases, a nurse dating a former patient gets quite an exceptional release.
However, in that exception comes specific reasoning too.
The NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) has given guidelines regarding when dating a former patient isn’t considered a case of sexual misconduct.
It involves the length of interaction between a nurse and a patient and the kind of therapy or treatment underwent. It also includes queries or if the personal relationship could pose any future risk or threat to the patient. And most importantly, it considers the amount of personal information the nurse has of the patient.
Current patient – Unacceptable
A nurse dating a current patient is unacceptable. It is seen as a breach of nurse-patient trust in the professional relationship. In addition, it is considered a case of sexual misconduct, which can lead to a case of violation of criminal law.
One of the main reasons this is unacceptable is the current and long-term interaction with a patient. It gives the nurse access to vulnerable patient information and details.
Hence, it creates more power imbalance and inequality in any relationship outside of the professional relationship.
Psychatriac patient – complete no!
There is a wholly prohibited case and scenario of a nurse dating a patient. That is when a nurse is dealing with someone who has a psychiatric condition and needs psychiatric attention.
The first and foremost reason is the nurse having so much access to the personal history and information of the patient. It puts the patient in a very vulnerable spot.
In the eyes of the law, a romantic relationship between a nurse and a psychiatric patient is considered unfair/manipulative/one with a plan.
What happens when a nurse-patient relationship crosses the ethical boundary?
As read in the previous section, it must be clear to you about the exceptions and restrictions in a nurse-patient relationship.
However, strict legal action can result in some instances. That is when a nurse and a patient cross the ethical and legal professional boundaries.
Hence, it becomes essential to be aware of the legal implications before being too quick to embark on the journey of love.
Here’s a look at the consequences of when a nurse-patient relationship crosses ethical boundaries –
- There can be situations where it could serve the nurse an explanation call from the employer. It could lead to an investigation on ethical grounds by the employer. When something like this happens, it could sometimes pose a threat of losing the job too.
- In some cases, the result of an investigation could lead to the Nurse board of the region/country taking up the case. The result of which could be disciplinary action.
- In worse-case scenarios, a nurse-patient romantic relationship can even be considered a violation of criminal law.
Without a doubt, nursing as a profession is amongst the most respected, appreciated, and trusted jobs.
Exploring romantic relationships for a personal choice is everyone’s right. However, a romantic relationship between a nurse and a patient can get one into an interpersonal mess and legal actions.
Hence, exhibiting and maintaining professional boundaries does justice to the superior service of caregiving as a nurse.