Nurse dating patient family
Sometimes a nurse will find that a person that they are caring for, or their family member, is attracted to them and displays sexualised behaviour, perhaps flirting in the first instance.
When this occurs, the nurse should firstly advise a colleague and consider contacting their professional body to seek advice on the most appropriate step to take.
Key points A relationship with a current patient or a member of their family is deemed to be inappropriate.
A relationship with a former patient or member of their family may be inappropriate.
Standard 6.9 of the Nurse’s Code of Conduct states that a nurse has a duty to: “Intervene to stop unsafe, incompetent, unethical or unlawful practice. Report to an appropriate person at the earliest opportunity and take other actions necessary to safeguard patients.” You may consider speaking to your colleague about what you have witnessed.
If you decide to take this approach, remember that what you say may come as a total surprise to your colleague, so give some thought to when, where and how you raise this with them.
Despite the Nursing Council’s very best efforts to offer guidance on this tricky topic, the guide acknowledges that: “It is not possible to provide guidance for every situation and nurses must develop and use their own professional and ethical judgment and seek the advice of colleagues and/or their professional organisation when issues arise in relationships with patients.” The guide details a number of factors that impact on whether a relationship will be deemed to be inappropriate or not, and these are taken into consideration by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal when it considers a complaint of this nature: An appearance before the tribunal, by its very nature, is not a pleasant experience and the best way to avoid this happening to you is to recognise the signs of becoming inappropriately involved with a patient or one of their family members (see over-involvement sidebar).
If the nurse gets this wrong, they run a very real risk that their registration could be cancelled or suspended. M (Health Law) was a mental health nurse for more than 20 years before becoming a Christchurch solicitor.
Nurse-turned-solicitor ROBIN KAY explores the boundaries of this tricky issue.