The myth of nurses dating doctors

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Why do so many dramas depict doctors and nurses spending more time having sex on the job than they do treating patients? Yes, nurses and doctors DO date each other, but not nearly on the scale that Hollywood would have you believe.

The long hours and extreme situations of a medical environment can lead to more intense closeness than other workplaces. Nurses date nurses, nurses date EMTs, nurses date cafeteria personnel, nurses date custodial staff.

Somehow, though, when nurses do date doctors, that romance is susceptible to more intense scrutiny than other relationships.

Nurses dating doctors is a hot-button issue with real-life repercussions. When you engage in that romance, be prepared for gossip from coworkers, unhappy supervisors and possibly a damaged professional reputation. How? Because no matter how it ends, your colleagues could get caught up in your drama, and that can lead to long-term career damage. And as unfair as it may seem, that impact is more than likely to be felt most by the nurse in the relationship.

So, let’s go over a few rules to make sure you’re savvy about dating a doctor and don’t come away with professional regrets:

  • Keep it quiet. Especially in the early days of a relationship, it’s important that you don’t provide workplace gossip fodder. Don’t text “Hey Stud Muffin” notes to your honey at work, which could actually be grounds for getting fired. Avoid any hand-holding, stolen kisses or other PDA (public displays of affection) on the job. If you go to lunch or take breaks together, help keep speculation under control by inviting other people along sometimes. When dating after hours, don’t go to the usual haunts where other nurses, doctors and medical technicians hang out. Always maintain your professional demeanor when working—no “babe” or “sweetie” when addressing one another. “It’s important to keep it out of the hospital, or wherever you work,” says Sarah Dolloff, a registered charge nurse at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast in Miramar Beach, Fla. “People do gossip at work—especially women. They’ll talk about who they saw together and stuff like that. That’s why you want to make sure you act professionally at all times at work.”
  • Check the employee handbook. Always make sure you’re cool with your organization’s policy regarding workplace dating. Most nurses don’t report to doctors, but if there’s any supervisory role between you and your honey, you may be violating a rule regarding supervisors dating subordinates. “When I worked in a university hospital, we socialized quite a bit with the male residents and interns,” Dolloff says. “But in a community hospital, it’s much more formal. You’ve got to be aware of what’s okay and what’s not okay in that setting.”
  • Set some ground rules. While it may sound unromantic, make sure anyone you date from work understands that you want to be discreet, and if it doesn’t work out, you still want to be discreet. “There are some hospitals that are so big, the two people might never see each other at work. But if you’ve got an orthopedic doctor working with an orthopedic nurse, for example, they’re going to be running into each other all the time,” Dolloff says. “I’d have an issue with a nurse who didn’t behave professionally when she worked with someone she was dating.”

And while fuming silences, spats in the hallway, tears and nasty remarks after a bad breakup make for good TV, they can give supervisors digestive problems. Be clear up front that no matter how the relationship works out, you want to protect your career. Make sure that viewpoint is heard and respected before moving forward, or you could be heading for real heartbreak—both personally and professionally.

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