Nurse Patient Relationship

  1. My wife is a nurse and has formed a friendship with a young man early 20's patient of hers. He's not in great health and I'm sure she cares for him in a maternal way and just wishes he gets better. My question is where do you draw the line? It's obvious they are friends at the clinic she works in. You can tell they are on friendly terms. I'm afraid boundaries may be tested though.

    Recently I found out they communicated outside of work for several days by txt and cell when he was in the hospital (unafilliated with my wife's work) for a 3 day stay. My wife was so concerned that she called the hospital relentlessly until they were able to at least touch bases. After the initial contact, they texted and called each other fairly regularly until he was released from the hospital (4-5x a day). He even asked my wife to pick him up from the hospital after discharge. She declined.

    I wish him nothing but the best but I feel that they should not be that comfy being buddies when she's off duty. I can honestly say I think there's a sort of obsession with his situation and it's confusing me . When she gets home, conversation turns to this patient of hers non-stop. Isn't there a sort of code of conduct between nurses and patients that shouldn't be crossed? I know this isn't romantic and she feels this maternal caring but it still confuses me. any thoughts? btw, he's married and my greatest argument is his wife and family should serve as his support once he leaves my wife's clinic each week. I believe his wife may have questioned this behavior on at least one occasion so I feel semi-justified in my feelings.

    She agreed that this was overboard and promised not to exhibit this behavior again. I discovered she purchased one of those prepaid cell phones to maintain communication. My question(s) are 1 ) is this professional? and 2) Am I over-reacting or is this adolescent verging on childing behavior or is this a case of the nurse who "cares too much".
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    About stealth 92

    Joined: May '07; Posts: 3


  3. by   stealth 92
    I'm sorry, I meant to say "childish" behavior in the last statement. I posted here because my wife is a dialysis nurse and I would like the opinions of some of the dialysis nurses out there. I personally feel bad for my kids and myself as her emotional energy seems to go to this young man friend of hers.
  4. by   MSLNT1.1
    Yes, there is a code of business conduct that we all should follow. IWhen she was hired she should have been given the opportunity to read it. I know how hard it can be not to truly care for patients that you see on a day-to-day basis, but we need to tread lightly as healthcare porfessional on what is considered crossing the line. Maybe your wife could call and check on her patients at work, but him having her cell phone # is a no-no. When she comes home she may feel very comfortable talking with you about what goes on at work, just continue to listen. It is very hard to watch your patients' health decline. Maybe having a conversation with her about not crossing the lines would be a good idea. You never know who is watching and how they will twist a situation, it happens everyday.
    Last edit by MSLNT1.1 on May 15, '07
  5. by   diabo
    RED FLAG in my book. It's kind of an artificial relationship if it's anything more than good empathetic nursing. I've witnessed several similar situations that in the end ended up hurting the patient. I've seen others where the nurse ended up in a very awkward place because of the unspoken "mixed signals" that were being exchanged. In a chronic setting, the buzz among the patients is quite flammable to say the least. They watch everything with big eyes and expect to be treated in the same way that they see other patients being treated. Most employers will not tolerate what you have described.
  6. by   mo-mo
    There is a professional boundary which is the nurse's duty to establish and maintain. She's definitely crossed it.

    In the chronic HD unit setting, its REALLY hard for the soft-hearted types to maintain this boundary. Most hospitals and dialysis corporations offer free counselling for this type of thing. Sounds like it would help your wife regain some perspective here. Afterall, she is the guy's nurse, not his mommy. In the long run, this relationship could be detrimental to both of them, and their relations with family members.

    BTW You definitely aren't over-reacting if she's maintaining this communication behind your back (especially buying another cell phone). You are her spouse and it is deceitful, no matter how you look at it.

    Last edit by mo-mo on May 16, '07
  7. by   stealth 92
    Thank you for your opinions thus far. What's caught my attention is in ten years at this job, my wife has never exhibited this behavior for any one particular patient. It's very out of character for her. I understand about empathetic nursing but calling and talking for the sake of talking is unacceptable in my opinion (my wife's sance is they talk about "whatever" and she claims it's just her being there to listen and be supportive). But in terms of 5 hours of total talk time and something like 35 texts shot back and forth over the course of 3-4 days in the hospital............that's not empathy to me. Sounds kind of like when you first met that first girlfriend or boyfriend in high school and you just had to talk. He's got a wife for that you know.........sorry I'm frustrated.

    Yes, mo-mo, the phone was behind my back and it was by some blind faith that it came to the forefront. Otherwise I would have been deceived and that's frustrating in itself.
  8. by   UM Review RN
    Stealth, this might be a good time to get yourself and your wife into counseling.

    Definitely over the line.
  9. by   hemorn1
    It is extremely hard not to have some type of relationship with patients in the chronic setting, however, I agree this has gone too far. I have seen patients basically "stalking" their PCT or Nurse when they misinterpret the relationship. It can be very harmful to all involved, and scary.

    All dialysis staff needs to set firm boundaries with the patients. This can be done and continue to be empathatic and caring. I do not agree with patients having personal home numbers of their dialysis caregivers, ever.

    As far as your wife coming home and discussing this patient with you, I'm surprised no one has brought up the ugly "HIPPA" word yet.
  10. by   cardiacRN2006
    IMO, this crosses more than a nursing boundry. The text messages alone scream to me that yes, this is indeed turning romantic for your wife and this patient. The fact that she purchased a pre-paid phone behind your back is a terrible sign.

    Just reading your posts tells me that you feel the same way. Like Angie said, this is the time for counseling. Now, before things get past the point of no return...
  11. by   mama smurf
    HI, was just reading this post and wanted to let you know that this should not be allowed to continue, we have a similar situation on the unit that I work on and it is causing all kinds of problems there is even talk that the nurse is "sleeping" with the patient! what makes it worse is the fact that it is our unit manager so people feel frightened to say anything. you should discuss this a s a p and get it sorted out before it turns ugly.