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The Unwritten Rules Of Dating As A Nurse

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Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

Dear Nurse Beth, I'm wanting to date a former patient. He was never my patient, just there while I was on duty ... Navy Psych Tech...

The Unwritten Rules Of Dating As A Nurse
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I'm just curious if it is against any rules to date a former patient of mine at the inpatient ward?????? please let me know he's such a sweet man and we totally connected a few months after he was in!


Dear Wants to Date Former Patient,

Nurses are the most trusted profession and as such follow a code of ethical behaviors. There are no legal rules around dating a patient, but we are bound to a code of ethics. The ANA Code of Ethics 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 a current relationship, 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?

In your case, he was not your patient, and you did not enter into a nurse-patient relationship. You connected after he was hospitalized. You are not violating any professional boundaries, and I wish you and your sweet man well.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

This article is featured in the Fall 2018 issue of our allnurses Magazine...

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Beth Hawkes (Nurse Beth) is an accomplished nurse working in Acute Care as a Staff Development Professional Specialist. She is also an accomplished author, blogger, speaker, and columnist. As Nurse Beth, she regularly answers career-related questions at allnurses.com Check out her book, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Job" Nurse Beth blogs at nursecode.com

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The NCSBN can say whatever it wants to; the standard in "Psych World," for all the mental health disciplines working in psychiatric settings, including psychiatric nurses (and CNAs, techs, etc.), is that it is never appropriate to enter into a personal relationship with former client (someone you met in a work setting). I've seen multiple people violate that well-established boundary over the years, and I've seen it blow up in their faces. I've never personally been aware of a situation in which it turned out well.

Pixie.RN, MSN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

OP, if you're asking, you know there is an issue with this. It crosses lines that are best left uncrossed. I wish you both well.

bsyrn, ASN, RN

Specializes in Peds, School Nurse, clinical instructor.

Bad idea on so many levels.

Dear Nurse Beth,

Dating former patient he was never my patient just there while I was on duty ... Navy Psych Tech

I'm just curious if it is against any rules to date a former patient of mine at the inpatient ward?????? please let me know he's such a sweet man and we totally connected a few months after he was in!

Dear Wants to Date Former Patient,

Nurses are the most trusted profession and as such follow a code of ethical behaviors. There are no legal rules around dating a patient, but we are bound to a code of ethics. The ANA Code of Ethics 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?

Was the care provided extensive?

Is there a chance he'll be your patient in the future?

In your case, he was not your patient, and you did not enter into a nurse-patient relationship. You connected after he was hospitalized. You are not violating any professional boundaries, and I wish you and your sweet man well.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

I am still married and have been throughout my career so dating was a non-issue. I had a friend whom, upon her license being suspended for other reasons, had the BON dig through her entire life and dinged her on dating an ex-patient but this was working as a jail nurse and she'd gone way past what she should have on boundaries in getting too familiar with him while he was still in jail. I still think it is a bad idea in other areas of nursing.

"Dating former patient he was never my patient just there while I was on duty ... Navy Psych Tech

I'm just curious if it is against any rules to date a former patient of mine at the inpatient ward?????? please let me know he's such a sweet man and we totally connected a few months after he was in!"

A few questions:

Was he your patient or not? You seem to contradict yourself?

You call yourself a technician so it appears you are not a nurse.

Are you both still on Active Duty or is he a dependent?

It seems you are already in a relationship with him.

Is this real?

You want to date a guy you met as a patient in a mental hospital?

Hey good luck but when he starts displaying all the reasons that got him placed in mental health treatment you sure as heck can't say you weren't warned

It's not so much that he's a patient, but that you met him in a psych hospital. Nothing against mental illness, however, this isnt the case where you met a guy, and then discovered he had a mental illness.

I work in a psych facility and the patients there are really nice people of course that is until you read their chart and then it's apparent why they are getting treatment in the first place.

You will ultimately do what you want but please try to get to know this person first.

adventure_rn, BSN

Specializes in NICU, PICU.

WHY??? Why is it always psych patients? :banghead:

This precise question comes up on AN at least once every few months. Psych patients are an inherently vulnerable population, and the nature of psych nursing care makes the whole situation even more questionable.

OP, consider using the AN search bar to search for 'dating former patient' or 'dating former psych patient,' and you will see hundreds of responses with a myriad of reasons why this is a terrible idea.

I am really disgusted with how more than one person has brought up that the person was in for a psych issue, aside from mentioning this could be a vulnerable population. You should really think about how you are stigmatizing people as a medical professional. So people with mental health issues are not good people, they are not worthy of relationships or love? That honestly has not much to do with the issue at hand, it is just a dig at those who have mental health issues. None of your spouses have ever been depressed? That is lucky. Think about how you are perpetuating the stigma of mental illness which can and does happen to anyone, next could be you or your loved one.

As a psych nurse of over 20 years I can only offer this sound piece of advice. NO!! NO!! NO!! That is unless you plan on never working in the psych world again and know it is true what NEO Soldier said... what got the guy there in the first place? I can't stress enough NO!!

heron, ASN, RN

Specializes in Hospice.

I am really disgusted with how more than one person has brought up that the person was in for a psych issue, aside from mentioning this could be a vulnerable population. You should really think about how you are stigmatizing people as a medical professional. So people with mental health issues are not good people, they are not worthy of relationships or love? That honestly has not much to do with the issue at hand, it is just a dig at those who have mental health issues. None of your spouses have ever been depressed? That is lucky. Think about how you are perpetuating the stigma of mental illness which can and does happen to anyone, next could be you or your loved one.

This isn't about the ability of people with mental health issues being capable of healthy relationships. It's about the temptation for the caregiver to use the exceedingly intimate nature of the therapeutic relationship - which is inherently unequal - to meet his/her own needs.

That is what I am saying, I am saying it is unnecessary for all of the negative things that have been said about being seen for mental health issues, that the only thing that was appropriate was the fact that someone said it can be a vulnerable population. Let me point out what I am talking about : " Is this real?

You want to date a guy you met as a patient in a mental hospital?

Hey good luck but when he starts displaying all the reasons that got him placed in mental health treatment you sure as heck can't say you weren't warned " or "It's not so much that he's a patient, but that you met him in a psych hospital. Nothing against mental illness, however, this isnt the case where you met a guy, and then discovered he had a mental illness.

I work in a psych facility and the patients there are really nice people of course that is until you read their chart and then it's apparent why they are getting treatment in the first place.

You will ultimately do what you want but please try to get to know this person first. "

THAT IS WHAT I AM HAVING AN ISSUE WITH

and despite that not being what the question is about I find it terrible that medical professionals are saying this about those with mental health issues....no matter the forum it just perpetuates the stigma, so I felt the need to point it out.

Disgusting coming from a mental health professional to talk about people in this manner.

as a psych nurse of over 20 years i can only offer this sound piece of advice. No!! No!! No!! That is unless you plan on never working in the psych world again and know it is true what neo soldier said... What got the guy there in the first place? I can't stress enough no!!

Edited by carrienoka

Disgusting coming from a mental health professional to talk about people in this manner.

it's not so much that he's a patient, but that you met him in a psych hospital. Nothing against mental illness, however, this isnt the case where you met a guy, and then discovered he had a mental illness.

I work in a psych facility and the patients there are really nice people of course that is until you read their chart and then it's apparent why they are getting treatment in the first place.

You will ultimately do what you want but please try to get to know this person first.

Edited by carrienoka

Disgusting coming from a mental health professional to talk about people in this manner.

is this real?

You want to date a guy you met as a patient in a mental hospital?

Hey good luck but when he starts displaying all the reasons that got him placed in mental health treatment you sure as heck can't say you weren't warned

Edited by carrienoka

Disgusting coming from a mental health professional to talk about people in this manner.

I have a right to my opinion, madame. I have worked enough years to know that dating patients that you found at your job in a psych hospital is not the way to go.

I am not discussing the fact that you said don't date a patient from a ward, my issue is with you talking about humans like this. Sorry, I feel sorry that you work in this field and that is the way that you feel about your patients that you would talk about them in this way. You should be helping to end the stigma, not perpetuating it.

I have a right to my opinion, madame. I have worked enough years to know that dating patients that you found at your job in a psych hospital is not the way to go.

You specifically say nothing against mental illness and then go on to specifically say something about mental illness.

I have a right to my opinion, madame. I have worked enough years to know that dating patients that you found at your job in a psych hospital is not the way to go.

I am not discussing the fact that you said don't date a patient from a ward, my issue is with you talking about humans like this...you should be helping to end the stigma, not perpetuating it.

Just because someone is human doesn't mean the person is appropriate to date.

I'm not perpetuating the stigma of mental illness. People date mentally ill people and thats ok, but when a nurse is talking about dating her patient who happens to be mentally ill, I find it ridiculous.

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