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My Patient Won’t Stop Hitting On Me. What Can I Do?

istock | Steve Debenport

It’s a given. Patients will hit on you, in more or less obvious ways and varying degrees of inappropriateness. It can get very upsetting, especially after a long shift.

Although we are not encouraging this practice, we try to understand why it’s so common among patients. For starters, nursing is often depicted in sexualized ways. So, it’s no wonder that some patients see nurses as an object of desire. In addition, you interact with your patients when they are at their most vulnerable. You take care of them, you are kind to them, and you bring hope in their lives. As a result, some patients may see you as s savior of sorts and fall for you.

But as everyone in the industry already knows, having a romance of any kind with a patient is strictly forbidden. The tricky side to this is that this rule might not be as obvious for your patients as it is for you.

So when patients don’t seem to play by the rules, what is there for you to do so as you handle this as smoothly as possible? Here are some helpful ideas.


Try to Understand Where They’re Coming From

With health care being such a sensitive subject for many people, ending up in a hospital – and potentially difficult emotional situations – means that many patients will try to find a way out of the discomfort. Some might simply be obnoxious, critical, noncompliant, and some will just try to diffuse the tension by flirting with you. Although this situation is bizarre for you, they are probably not very aware of the discomfort they might be putting on you.

But it’s important for you to know where all this is coming from, so you can look at this behavior the way you would look at any other difficult one. It might even serve you to try to redirect the conversation to something that might be troubling them and that they might unknowingly try to avoid through flirting. You can find some great tips on how to deal with difficult patients and on how to keep your cool around them. You will see that they will serve you right when dealing with flirtatious patients as well.


Let Them Know Your Limits

Nothing feels as wrong as letting people cross your personal boundaries. As much as you might think that being a nurse implies only kindness and compassion, there comes a time when you need to be outspoken and impose some limits. It doesn’t mean you should be mean or intimidating, but you need to be assertive and redirect the situation onto a more professional one. You can do that by either saying you are only there to provide professional services and limits are required to be respected or by simply affirming that it is not appropriate to deviate towards anything non-professional.

If being outspoken about it feels a bit like a stretch for you, you might try the simple strategy of dismissing their comments. In fact, for those who are not pushing the limits that badly, it might work even better just to cut out the flirting by ignoring it or by simply shifting the conversation. Whatever you feel best to do, stick to a serious tone of speech. That way, they won’t derail any further.


Make a Common Colleagues Agreement

Some situations might get out of control. That’s why it is good to address this possibility by sharing it with the rest of your colleagues. Together you could agree on a common way to approach such behaviors. For example, if there is any patient that is already famous for his/her flirting predispositions, then it might be a good idea to always visit them accompanied.

Create a common strategy on how to deal with flirting patients. It might sound a bit difficult since everybody’s got a full schedule while being a nurse, but it will prove to be very helpful and efficient. Not only will you have backup, but can also focus on doing your job better.


What other strategies for dealing with flirtatious patients do you have? Share your tips by leaving a  comment below.


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