Dating a former patient

  1. Hello,

    I am an LPN in Canada working at a mental health facility. I met a patient nearly a year ago whom I had a totally unexpected connection with. It isn't something I was seeking out and never in a million years did it occur to me that something like that would happen. I explained at the time that it was inappropriate and crossing an ethical boundary. The patient understood. Now, that former patient is doing very well and doesn't have a long standing illness and are well into their recovery. It was a short admission and I would have only been in the circle of care. We have been talking and spending time together (initiated by him) and it is obvious that after all this time we would like to be with each other and are meant to be, regardless of the circumstances of how we initially came into contact, so we are now officially in a relationship. He is in university with a bright future and such a wonderful and kind person who just had a little episode. He comes from a wonderful family. I'm afraid my co-workers will judge me if they find out I'm dating an ex "mental patient" and that I will be the topic of gossip in the work place. How do I deal with this situation in a professional manner? As far as I can tell, I am doing nothing wrong. A significant amount of time has passed and their is no element of vulnerability.
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  2. 59 Comments

  3. by   macawake
    Quote from rookieLPN88
    Hello,

    I am an LPN in Canada working at a mental health facility. I met a patient nearly a year ago whom I had a totally unexpected connection with.
    A significant amount of time has passed and their is no element of vulnerability.
    Nearly a year is nowhere close to a significant amount of time. It just isn't. In my opinion you can't possibly rule out an element of vulnerability after such a short time period, nor can I rule out the possibility that you are being manipulated/used by your former patient, based on your account of how the two of you came to be a couple.

    We have been talking and spending time together (initiated by him) and it is obvious that after all this time we would like to be with each other and are meant to be, regardless of the circumstances of how we initially came into contact, so we are now officially in a relationship.
    I'm afraid my co-workers will judge me if they find out I'm dating an ex "mental patient" and that I will be the topic of gossip in the work place.
    As far as I can tell, I am doing nothing wrong.
    It's quite likely that your coworkers will question your judgment and professionalism if they find out about your relationship with your ex-patient. In all honesty it concerns me that you don't see any potential problems with your relationship. My advice to you is to tread very carefully and understand that the choices you make now may well impact your career, your emotional wellbeing as well as your former patient's/now boyfriend's emotional health.

    How do I deal with this situation in a professional manner?
    Frankly, the professional thing in my opinion would have been to stick with what you originally told your patient; that it was inappropriate and crossing an ethical boundary.

    Granted, I don't know the details of your patient's psychiatric history, but I don't see myself ever getting involved with a patient in the scenario you've described. Apart from possibly negatively affecting my job and ultimately the public's trust in healthcare professionals, there's also emotional risk involved for both parties. I suspect this isn't the advice that you were hoping for but I can only call it as I see it.

    Take care OP!
  4. by   ImLovingIt
    So, a former mental health patient you took care of less than a year ago figured out your name and how to contact you, you agreed to meet and what appears to be a very short time frame, you decided you were "meant to be"? There are so many red flags. And I think, deep down, you know this is a bad idea or you wouldn't have posted...At a minimum, check your employer's policies. I suspect dating former patients is not allowed for a certain period of time.
  5. by   EllaBella1
    Honestly if you want to make this work I would leave your job and start somewhere new. I don't think it's entirely ethical to date a former patient in the first place, but I for sure would not continue working at the facility at which you met.
  6. by   ItsThatJenGirl
    If you think you're doing nothing wrong, then why are you asking for advice? Some part of you knows that this won't end well, and it's ill advised. I think you should listen to that part of you and move on with your life. IMO, that's in everyone's best interest.

    Best of luck.
  7. by   Penelope_Pitstop
    I'm a big advocate for those with mental illnesses, as I have mental illness myself and abhor the associated stigma.

    However...

    this is a big, fat no.
  8. by   elkpark
    Quote from rookieLPN88
    I'm afraid my co-workers will judge me if they find out I'm dating an ex "mental patient" and that I will be the topic of gossip in the work place. How do I deal with this situation in a professional manner? As far as I can tell, I am doing nothing wrong. A significant amount of time has passed and their is no element of vulnerability.
    Your co-workers will judge you and gossip about you if they find out about this, as well they should. You are violating well-established professional and ethical boundaries. There is no "professional manner" in which to deal with this, other than to end the relationship. You can say that there is "no element of vulnerability," but that is simply not true. The origin of the relationship permanently "poisons" the relationship. And the fact that you don't feel you are doing anything wrong is a big red flag for me.

    You express concern about what your coworkers would say if they knew -- one of the classic "tests" of whether an action may violate professional standards and boundaries is whether you would be willing to do (whatever it is) in front of your boss or coworkers; if you would not be willing to do it in front of your boss and coworkers, you shouldn't do it at all. You are acknowledging that you have already "flunked" that test. If this relationship is okay, why would you be concerned about your coworkers finding out about it??
  9. by   OrganizedChaos
    No no big hell no!

    I have mental health issues & am a nurse but that's so many shades of wrong!
  10. by   Purple_roses
    Shonda Rhimes? Is that you?
  11. by   VivaLasViejas
    I am a "mental patient" myself and can't imagine being in a relationship with one of the nurses who took care of me. Yes, I know the OP said the former patient initiated it, but it should have been nicely but firmly rejected from the get-go. It crosses professional boundaries in many ways, not the least of which is the inequality of the nurse-patient relationship, in which the nurse has at least some power over the patient. It doesn't make a difference if he's been out of the hospital for one year or five, it's still not appropriate. The fact that the OP sees nothing wrong with it raises serious questions about her professionalism. But, that's just me.
  12. by   sarahg88
    FORMER patient. I see no policies stating this is an issue. I also had a nursing instructor who married one of her patients! It upsets me that there is a blanket policy on all of this. No authority can dictate my life. As for my professionalism, I am a highly respected nurse in my field and work with great compassion and competency. The fact that all of you are so disgusted makes me question your stigma. If it was a patient arrived to the ER with a broken arm and the same situation transpired, I doubt you would all have the same take on this. Right now, I'm saddened to think I work with people such as all of you.
  13. by   Jedrnurse
    Quote from rookieLPN88
    FORMER patient. I see no policies stating this is an issue. I also had a nursing instructor who married one of her patients! It upsets me that there is a blanket policy on all of this. No authority can dictate my life. As for my professionalism, I am a highly respected nurse in my field and work with great compassion and competency. The fact that all of you are so disgusted makes me question your stigma. If it was a patient arrived to the ER with a broken arm and the same situation transpired, I doubt you would all have the same take on this. Right now, I'm saddened to think I work with people such as all of you.

    So....you didn't get the answer you were looking for, so you lash out? Just so you know, no one is "meant to be" with anyone else. That constitutes magical thinking, i.e., a component of some mental illnesses which you are probably aware of due to your experience.
  14. by   sarahg88
    Not lashing out, just upset at the fact that there is a lack of support.
    Last edit by sarahg88 on Jul 8 : Reason: changed mind on what i wanted to say

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