When you’re a medical professional and also an individual, it can be difficult to reconcile your two roles at once. This is especially true when considering how dating a patient could be considered unethical depending on their current circumstances. There are many things that must first be considered before moving forward with pursuing or continuing a relationship with a patient. The power dynamic, the potential for exploitation of one party, the implications for future care, and other important factors all must be taken into account when making this decision. However, not everyone has the presence of mind to process these things in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, many medical professionals have ended up in compromising positions as a result of falling in love or lust with a patient. Read on to learn more about how to deal with attraction to a patient if you find yourself in this unfortunate position.
Remember you’re a care provider, not just an individual
A patient is someone who is seeking care from you as a medical professional, not as an individual. This means that they are there because they need help. Your feelings for them should not (and cannot) affect your ability to provide that care. This is something that must be constantly reinforced in your mind when dealing with attraction to a patient. The attraction may feel like it’s originating from the person you see in front of you. However, care providers are expected to recognize that patients have needs that are separate from their feelings for them. This isn’t to say that your feelings for a patient are necessarily bad or wrong — because they aren’t — but they do need to be placed in the correct context. There need to be clear boundaries between you as a person and the care that you provide to your patients.
Take some time to think and breathe before making any decisions
If you find yourself experiencing attraction to a current patient, the first thing that you should do is put the brakes on any decision-making around the matter. There are a lot of feelings that can be tied up in these situations, which means that they are often hastily decided. You may feel a sense of urgency to make some kind of decision in the moment, like ending the relationship, ending the relationship and pursuing a romantic relationship, or continuing the relationship as is. However, it’s important to give yourself a break from the situation. Take some time to think about what you truly want, and don’t let your emotions rush you into any decisions.
Confront the ethical implications of your attraction with peers
If you find that you’re struggling with the ethics of your current relationship with a patient, it’s important to discuss it with someone who is unemotionally tied to the situation. You may have colleagues or friends who are fellow healthcare providers who have been in a similar situation. For example, you can ask them about their experiences, how they handled their attraction, and what they would do in your situation. You can also ask them if you’re being too hard on yourself or if you’re expecting too much. The opinions of others are often helpful when it comes to dealing with ethical dilemmas. You may feel like the ethical implications of your attraction are all on you, but they aren’t. There is a team of people who are working together to take care of your patient, so you don’t have to shoulder the ethical burden alone. You can also open up lines of communication with the rest of your team about your feelings for your patient.
Don’t let yourself be coerced or feel obligated to act on your feelings
If you find yourself being pressured by your peers or significant other to act on your feelings, take a step back and look at the situation through a clear lens. Don’t let yourself be pressured into pursuing a relationship with a patient who you’re not actually interested in — even if they are — or into breaking things off with a patient that you do want to pursue. When it comes to matters of the heart and ethics, there is no one-size-fits-all rule. What’s right for one situation may not be right for another. And, what’s right for one person in a situation may not be right for another person in the same situation. Therefore, you need to be aware of your own wants and needs, as well as the wants and needs of other people in your life. You can’t rush into a relationship or break one off just because someone around you says that you should. You need to do what’s right for you and your patient — not what’s right for anyone else.
As a medical professional, you are often in a position of great power and influence over your patients. This is especially true if you are a doctor in an institutional setting, such as a hospital or psychiatric ward. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the implications of pursuing a romantic relationship with your patients. When you are attracted to a patient, it is vital that you do not act on those feelings. This is because it could lead to a breach of trust between you and your patient, as well as an ethical breach on the part of the medical team that employs you. If you find yourself falling for a patient, it is important to take steps to stop yourself from acting on your feelings. This will help ensure that you maintain your professionalism and protect your patient from any potential abuse from your team members.