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Dating a doctor: caveats

August 12, 2013

The first and only rule is that doctors should never date their patients. Ever. But some do it and live happily ever after. Others do and wind up getting their licence taken away by their provincial college. And all the doctor colleagues get a quarterly newsletter which spells out your bad deeds in a bit too much detail as well as listing your penance and penalties! Doctors are in a position of authority, they are privileged with your secrets, and the dynamic of the doctor-patient relationship cannot transform into a safe, equal, or legitimate romance.

I suppose at times it could be flattering to be complimented in the workplace, but as a doctor, it is almost always awkward to be on the receiving end of this exchange. And frankly, it would be highly unprofessional to be sharing compliments with patients other than “you are managing your diabetes very well,” “I knew you could quit smoking, waytta go!” or (maybe) “I like your shoes!”

Being a female doctor, yes, young men will hit on you when feeling bold. An old favourite was a guy with concussion. When I asked him “are you seeing double?” he looked puzzled… “well, can you see two of me, for example?” I asked

Ahhhh well dang I only see one of you and you are looking mighty fine!

It’s hard not to smile and yet it’s not really welcomed since we have to react professionally and continue to provide the best care we can. Patients why are psychotic or high or have a dementia that makes them hypersexual can be easily dismissed or reoriented. Other patients just don’t realize they are crossing a line and they don’t realize it could affect the doctor’s ability to provide their best care. Dirty old men will try to flirt and they do it awkwardly, trying to touch your ass as you ask them to step on the scale or saying:

Now how old are you? You are the prettiest nurse, I mean, prettiest doctor I’ve ever seen!

Sigh! It isn’t necessarily flirting but when questions get too personal, it can quickly turn the conversation into an uncomfortable one. An example from today:

What about you, you gonna have any puppies up in there? . . .

(trying to be polite, I try to make it into a joke and explain that we can’t even get a cat since my boyfriend is often away as a pilot, and I travel too much for work, so yeah, no kids right now …)

Well I guess you have to sleep together for that eh!?

Not that long ago, I was sending a patient to see a specialist. We were going over the plan and he commented on my lack of jewelry. Then he suggested I marry his son! When I explained that I had a boyfriend of two years, he suggested that if my boyfriend wasn’t up to snuff (“if he’s an asshole”), then his son would be a great catch! His son was standing right beside us. It was all a good joke except how do you excuse yourself from the room and focus diligently on the paperwork needed for the patient’s care after that!?

Suffice it to say, if you are a patient, don’t flirt with your doctor and don’t ask them out and PLEASE don’t propose, even in jest. I would not do that to you at your place of work, particularly if I expect you to help me with a serious or personal problem; the fact that we are bound by an oath to not harm you may be the only thing that makes us bite our tongues, make a joke, and try to move on before we punch you right in your hematoma.

If you are a doctor, you’ll best be finding your mate away from the workplace. It is great to be with someone outside of healthcare; we give each other unique perspective on our work and our jobs are different enough that I usually learn something new at the dinner table. Plus… the dental benefits! There is a lot of strange stuff that you just have to roll with if you do find yourself dating a physician. See my next post – what it’s really like.

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