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Patient initiating a relationship
Finding a patient attractive is not a boundary violation. However, acting on feelings of attraction is not acceptable. Nurses are accountable for maintaining professional boundaries even after a patient has been discharged from a nurses’ care.
Being self-reflective is one way to help nurses maintain appropriate boundaries. Once a nurse is aware of their feelings they must ensure they manage them professionally.
Employers play a role in supporting nurses and ensuring staff understand their accountabilities related to professional boundaries and by also raising patient awareness of acceptable behaviour.
Look for early signs of emotional involvement (yours and your patient's).
Miranda is a nurse working the night shift in the emergency department of a busy urban hospital. One evening she provides care for a patient who came in with a fracture. As the patient is leaving, he asks Miranda for her phone number and suggests they get together for dinner sometime soon. Miranda finds this patient attractive and has enjoyed talking to him throughout her shift. She wonders if it would be okay to accept to share her phone number and go on a date as the patient has initiated the ongoing relationship.
Flag: definition of patient = one year after the termination of the Therapeutic Nurse-Client Relationship
Flag: patients cannot consent to a sexual relationship with a nurse while a patient or within the one-year time frame following the end of the Therapeutic Nurse-Client Relationship. It doesn’t matter who initiated the relationship.
Related links: Case scenarios of patient sexual abuse by nurses.