Hospital Romance - Working Nurse (2024)


In pop culture, nurses find love, marriage and passion at work. Here is the real story.

Hospital Romance - Working Nurse (3)

By Ersilia Pompilio, RN, MSN, PNPFebruary 23, 2021

3 min read


SCENE: After resuscitating a car crash victim, handsome doctor Doug Ross (George Clooney) and attractive head nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) embrace — and soon find themselves sharing their first kiss.

“I shouldn’t have,” whispers Ross apologetically.

“Well, you didn’t do it alone,” Hathaway replies with a smile.

This scene is from the first season of “ER,” but if you’re a veteran television viewer, you can probably recall countless moments just like it. Hospital romances are the lifeblood of every medical series, whether reality show, daytime soap or nighttime drama. The life-and-death decisions come and go — it’s the romances that keep audiences tuning in.

But what about real life? Hospital romances do happen, but the drama and the consequences don’t always work out the way they do on TV.

The Heart Wants What it Wants

During the Civil War, Dorothea Dix, that great pioneer of U.S. Army nursing, took a dim view of romance within her ranks. Dix didn’t even want her nurses to be too young or too pretty, lest hostile Army doctors accuse the nurses of being more interested in finding husbands than in doing their duty.

Today, romances between nurses and patients are still frowned upon. The National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) considers such relationships to be sexual misconduct, no matter who initiates them. “It is an abuse of the nurse-patient relationship that puts the nurse’s needs first,” declares the NCSBN pamphletA Nurse’s Guide to Professional Boundaries.

Even so, sometimes the heart wants what it wants. In 2013, James Costello, one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, fell in love with travel nurse Krista D’Agostino while undergoing treatment at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where D’Agostino worked. After a much-publicized whirlwind courtship, the two tied the knot in August 2014.

“She hates when I say this, but I’m actually glad I got blown up,” Costello told the hosts of “The Today Show” after he and D’Agostino announced their engagement. “I wish everyone else didn’t have to, but I don’t think I would have ever met her if I didn’t, so I’m pretty happy.”

Not all nurse-patient relationships end so well. Back in 1997, a nurse from Lawrence, Kan., wrote to advice columnist Ann Landers, lamenting that her husband, a former patient, was a hypochondriac who expected her to take care of him 24/7.

There have also been several cases of correctional facility nurses who fell in love with inmates and ended up aiding the prisoners’ escape attempts. Back in 2005, Jennifer Hyatte lost her job as a nurse at Tennessee’s Northwest Correctional Complex over her relationship with a prisoner whom she then married. She later killed a guard to help her husband escape. Both husband and wife are now serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Workplace Romance

A 2015 study in the International Journal of Management Reviews, by Scottish organizational behavior professor Fiona Wilson, Ph.D., estimates that most workers — as many as 70 percent — have workplace romances at some point in their careers, whether it’s a casual fling or a long-term relationship leading to marriage. Healthcare is no different.

In a high-stakes, high-pressure workplace, it’s natural for sparks to fly, and real-world nursing can be just as dramatic as anything you see on TV. Especially in the emergency department, intense drama and heart-wrenching tragedy may be part of every shift. Such intensity has a way of fostering romance, even if the protagonists aren’t always as ruggedly handsome as Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson) of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

The sparks definitely flew when Nancy Kessler, RN, met her future husband years ago. “He was working as an aide and an orderly at West Park Hospital in Cody, Wyo., in the med/surg unit. He had just gotten out of the Army,” Kessler recalls. “At first, I mistook his confidence for arrogance, so I had to get to know him until I figured it out!”

The Kesslers have now been married for 35 years and have two daughters and three grandchildren. He is a lab technologist, while she is an RN working on a women’s health unit. Nancy says, “We work different shifts, but coordinate our days off to spend them together.”

Ashley Schultz, RN, fell in love with a fellow nurse. “My husband Chris and I met working in the NICU at the children’s hospital,” she says. “We both had been working in the NICU for three years at the time. He was the only male nurse in the NICU.”

The Standard Plotline

Once upon a time, many people assumed most hospital romances were between doctors and nurses. Nurse-doctor romance has always been a popular plotline in medical fiction, especially back in the days when it was rare for women to become physicians and rarer still for men to become nurses.

Well into the 1980s, if a hospital show featured a prominent female nurse, there was a good chance she would become a romantic interest for some male doctor. You still hear that assumption from time to time, particularly from older patients or relatives.

A married nurse anesthetist on the message board recalled the time one of her patients asked if she was married and then assumed that her husband must be a doctor. “I said, ‘Oh my god, no, it’s bad enough having to work with them, much less be married to one,’” the CRNA recalled. “Suddenly, there was a dead silence on the other side of the drape. After I took my foot out of my mouth, I peeked over and said to the surgeon (a relatively benign guy who had recently removed my gallbladder), ‘Present company excepted, of course!’”

Of course, doctors and nurses do sometimes end up together. “I married a doctor 17 years ago,” said another commenter. “We married because we were best friends and had a lot in common. It was the best decision I ever made.”

She added that after vision problems ended her husband’s practice, “We did the ol’ role reversal thing. He cooks, cleans, does the laundry and raises the kids while I go to work.” (There’s a twist you probably won’t see on your favorite nighttime hospital drama!)

Fools Rush In

The star-crossed lovers of TV’s hospital romances face all sorts of melodramatic obstacles: hostage standoffs, plane crashes, amnesia plots and even long-lost identical twins. Real-world consequences aren’t usually quite that exciting, but workplace romances can still have plenty of serious pitfalls. Close relationships between people in the same department or unit — even family relationships — can create problems of favoritism, coworker resentment and loss of objectivity.

Breakups can be even worse. Acute care settings are stressful enough without coworkers taking out their relationship squabbles on everyone else in the unit! Romantic overtures on the job also run the risk of sexual harassment complaints. We all know that a supervisor making a pass at one of their direct reports is a red flag, but a nurse passed over for a promotion in favor of a coworker who’s sleeping with the boss could also have a claim. So could coworkers bothered by a couple having steamy midday liaisons at work.

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Sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims can mean costly liability for hospitals, which has led hospital leaders to set strict rules about employee relationships. Some local hospitals require employees to inform human resources if they have any personal relationships with fellow employees. Many facilities prohibit workers in relationships from working in the same department or in any position where either supervises the other, even indirectly.

Never Tear Us Apart

Most hospitals now have policies like this, but they’re a relatively recent development. Thirty-five years ago, Nancy Kessler’s husband was able to work as her aide while she was a charge nurse. She says they worked well together and didn’t have any power issues that might have become disruptive to the unit. “I don’t remember anyone having a negative reaction to our relationship,” she says. “Coworkers gave us a wedding shower. We weren’t aware of any policy that stated we couldn’t date.”

Changing rules have created some headaches for long-term employees whose relationships predated the policy. Lesleigh Berg, RN, whose husband is a lab tech, says that when they first became involved, “There was no policy about dating coworkers that I was aware of. The administration didn’t say anything about us dating. It was when we became engaged and married that they started putting up boundaries.”

After their wedding, Berg and her husband were forbidden to work in the same unit. Hospital administrators, she says, “thought that others would complain or that I was giving him special treatment. I actually was harder on him than the other techs. Also, we were talked to in the office [and told] that home stayed at home and work was work.”

Hospital rules created even more drama for Ashley Schultz and her future husband, Chris. “We initially kept our relationship a secret until one day I went into work and the charge nurse and manager were talking at shift change about how they couldn’t get a hold of Chris,” Schultz recalls. “He was a no-show for his shift. They called his number (his mom’s house), but his mom hadn’t seen him in three days. They started to call the police. I had to fess up and tell them that he was at my house!”

After the couple came clean, Schultz says, “Some of our coworkers were shocked, but most of them were super-excited for us and loved seeing us together. We were the unit couple that everyone loved, although it was hard at times feeling like our relationship was on display in the NICU. We had many people from work at our wedding.” Ashley and Chris Schultz have worked together in the NICU for 10 years, she as a charge nurse, he as a staff RN.

Now, they alternate days off so one parent can be home with their three children. “We are deeply in love with each other and our kids,” Ashley reports. “We enjoy living on our five acres with about 30 chickens.” ­

A Thorny Ethical Dilemma

Back in January 2010, the AMA’s online ethics journal, Virtual Mentor (now called AMA Journal of Ethics), published a case study about a fictional hospital contemplating an even tougher policy on dating: a total, no-exceptions ban on relationships between coworkers.

This zero-tolerance policy was as hypothetical as the case study’s fictional “Healer Hospital. As the authors’ commentary illustrates, rules so strict would be almost unenforceable. Threatening to fire employees for dating would also create a whole new range of liability risks and morale problems for hospitals. The point of the case study was to highlight how complicated employee relationships can be from an ethical perspective.

Anyone who’s ever tried to dissuade lovers who are determined to be together has forgotten their Shakespeare — even the long-feuding Montague and Capulet families couldn’t keep Romeo and Juliet apart. And yes, in pop-culture fiction, Dr. Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway, RN, finally end up together in the Season 1 finale of “ER.” No matter what hospital policies are in place, the emotions of the heart are strong and will prevail in the end.

On the other hand, the desires of the lovers must be balanced against the interests of the staff, the hospital and above all the patients. So, if you become involved with a fellow nurse or member of the team, be discreet, be considerate of others, and definitely check in with human resources and your nursing manager to make sure you don’t violate protocol.

While the rules may be cold-blooded, they remind us of everything that’s at stake in real-world hospital romances. You will likely be restricted from working with your loved one —a sacrifice, yes, but what could be more romantic than that?­­

ERSILIA POMPILIO, RN, MSN, PNP, is a pediatric nurse practitioner, nurse media expert and the founder and CEO of Rogue Nurse Media.

In this Article: Career Advice, Historical Nurses, Nurses in the Media

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Hospital Romance - Working Nurse (2024)


Do nurses get emotionally attached to patients? ›

An unhealthy level of patient attachment can lead to compassion fatigue, also referred to as secondary traumatic stress (STS). Nurses who don't know how to detach healthily from their work can sometimes even go too far and cut themselves off completely from others emotionally or by getting resentful.

Can a nurse have a romantic relationship with a patient? ›

Finding a patient attractive is not a boundary violation. However, acting on feelings of attraction is not acceptable. Nurses are accountable for maintaining professional boundaries even after a patient has been discharged from a nurses' care.

Why do you want to work at this hospital nursing answer? ›

Why do you want to work here? I was impressed by the focus on quality patient care and the collaborative environment that I saw during my tour of the facility. I really believe that this is the kind of setting where I can thrive as a nurse and provide the best possible care for my patients.

Is it OK for a nurse to date a patient? ›

In general, is is highly advisable to keep your personal and professional lives separate. A relationship that crosses professional boundaries can result in discipline from your employer or from your state's board of nursing. In some cases a relationship with a patient may even be in violation of criminal law.

Can a nurse cuddle with a patient? ›

A hug may or may not be acceptable. The person who has the right to make that determination is the patient. Nurses are expected to interact with patients in an empathetic way that supports the patient's healing or wellness. Nurses are not required to hug patients when patients ask for a hug.

Can a nurse and patient fall in love? ›

It is common for a patient to become emotionally attached to his or her nurse or other caregivers. The patient may have unfulfilled emotional needs. Along comes the nurse, compassionate and caring, who meets these needs and the patient falls for her.

How do you know if a nurse likes you? ›

She or he will might use prolonged eye contact, smile a lot, give you nice compliments, tell you about her or his personal life or interests, ask a lot about you (as if you are single/available) give you small hints, touch you in a non professional way, accept gifts, accept social media requests.

What to do when you are attracted to your patient? ›

How to Cope if You Feel Attracted to a Patient
  1. Don't ignore it.
  2. Share it.
  3. Affirm boundaries.
  4. Examine vulnerabilities.
  5. Channel your energy.
  6. Stay rational.

Can a hospital employee date a patient? ›

Sexual or romantic relationships with former patients are unethical if the physician uses or exploits trust, knowledge, emotions, or influence derived from the previous professional relationship, or if a romantic relationship would otherwise foreseeably harm the individual.

What are the weakness of a nurse? ›

Examples of common nursing weaknesses our experts say they hear include: Paying too much attention to detail. Wanting to do everything at once. Spending too long on paperwork.

What makes you stand out as a nurse? ›

Kindness, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, emotional stability, empathy, and compassion are aspects of your personality that serve you well as a nurse. You exhibit strong communication skills. You communicate well with patients and colleagues — sometimes at their worst life moments.

What are the 6 C's of nursing interview questions? ›

Interviewee: Before your interview, you must ensure you understand the six Cs of nursing, which are: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.

Is dating a nurse worth it? ›

At work, your significant other is an advocate for their patients, but at home, they are your advocate. They will listen to you and offer advice when it is asked for. On top of this, they will respect your boundaries and never overstep. If you ask us, this is by far one of the best benefits of dating a nurse.

Can I date a patient after discharge? ›

It is not possible to specify a length of time after which it would be acceptable to begin a relationship with a former patient. However, the more recently a professional relationship with a patient ended, the less likely it is that beginning a personal relationship with that patient would be appropriate.

Can you be friends with a patient after discharge? ›

As a nurse, it's fine to say hello to former patient you see on the street but that is it. Do not establish a relationship or friendship with that person. Once the nurse-patient relationship ends, it is okay to befriend a patient but be careful of what happened in the above situations.

Do nurses have favorite patients? ›

Nurses can feel close to patients, especially those who are very sick or whom they have known for a long time. That patient often becomes one of the favorites.

What is intimacy between nurse and patient? ›

Professional intimacy is the therapeutic relationship between a nurse and a patient that fosters closeness, self-disclosure, reciprocity, and trust at physical, psychological, and/or spiritual levels.

Do nurses marry other nurses? ›

Female registered nurses are most likely to marry male managers or female registered nurses. Male registered nurses are most likely to marry female or male registered nurses. Nurse practitioners and midwives are most likely to marry miscellaneous managers, physicians and surgeons.

Do nurses have a lot of affairs? ›

Nurses are more likely to have affairs than athletes, musicians and DJs. Amazingly those in the healthcare profession are third most likely to have an affair, coming after those who work in finance, such as bankers, brokers and analysts, and aviation crew, like pilots and flight attendants.

What's it called when a patient falls in love with a nurse? ›

Believe it or not, this situation can happen. Mental health professionals refer to this as transference. It can occur with caregivers of any kind, including physicians, nurses, and care aides.

How do nurses show love? ›

Therefore, we define love in nursing as follows: the combination of nursing care with a sense of responsibility, benevolence, attention and concern, respect, and understanding of others as a human being, regardless of their negative consequences for themselves.

Why would nursing interest you? ›

Patient Care

Directly caring for patients is the biggest part of nursing, and an excellent potential aspect of your answer to the question of “why” you want to be a nurse. If you love working with patients, it could be an ideal entry into your answer to this question. “Human connection has always been important to me.

Is it OK to ask out a nurse? ›

It's perfectly okay to ask a nurse out. When you do that, you are giving that nurse an opportunity to exercise prudence on his/her critical judgement as your caregiver. If he/she responds positively, good for you. If not, then there was no harm in trying.

What personality do most nurses have? ›

Nurses tend to be predominantly investigative individuals, which means that they are quite inquisitive and curious people that often like to spend time alone with their thoughts. They also tend to be social, meaning that they thrive in situations where they can interact with, persuade, or help people.

Can you control who you feel attracted to? ›

The truth is that while many factors can spark sincere attraction, we still cannot force ourselves to desire someone. "It's quite common to fall in love with someone you've known, but not for it to be someone you've known and wanted to fall in love with," Aron says.

How do you test if someone is attracted to you? ›

Here are the typical signs someone is attracted to you:
  1. They lean in.
  2. They tilt their head as you speak (a sign of engagement).
  3. They smile at you.
  4. They make eye contact with you.
  5. They reach out and touch your arm, hand, back, or leg.
Jul 13, 2016

What happens if you date a patient? ›

What the GMC says. The GMC makes it clear in its guidance it is never appropriate for a doctor to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a current patient or someone close to them. It is also inappropriate to end a professional relationship with a patient in order to then pursue a personal relationship ...

Can nurses date coworkers? ›

However, while some employers allow dating between coworkers, others are adamant that coworkers cannot date and likely have consequences for both parties. As a nurse, you'll likely meet a variety of people throughout the year since staff can change between units or from staffing agencies.

Can you call a hospital and ask if someone is a patient? ›

Can you call a hospital and ask if someone is there? Yes, unless the person has requested that no information be given out at all. Otherwise, legally the hospital is allowed to say that someone is a patient but that's all.

What is most difficult about being a nurse? ›

Nurses often work 10- or 12-hour shifts. After all the necessary administrative tasks and shift change procedures, these shifts frequently end up being even longer. Working such long hours can be physically and mentally taxing, which can lead to burnout.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years as a nurse? ›

Example answer:

“Within the next 5 years, I see myself becoming a nurse manager at your organisation. I want to utilise the expertise I have gained in caring for terminally ill patients as well as develop new skills in leadership and people management.

What is your strongest nursing skill? ›

  • Communication. Nurses need excellent written and verbal communication skills. ...
  • Empathy. A nurse also needs empathy when interacting with patients. ...
  • Flexibility. Nurses should be flexible. ...
  • Attention to detail. ...
  • Endurance. ...
  • Problem solving. ...
  • Keep up with changing technology. ...
  • Have a mentor.
Jun 24, 2022

How do I sell myself in a nursing interview? ›

Tips for answering, “Why should we hire you as a nurse?”
  1. Concentrate on yourself. Avoid comparing yourself and your skills to others. ...
  2. Be ready with three strong talking points. ...
  3. Be confident. ...
  4. Be genuine. ...
  5. Smile. ...
  6. Make eye contact. ...
  7. Stay focused.
Jun 24, 2022

What are the 4 important values of nursing? ›

Professional nursing values are defined as important professional nursing principles of human dignity, integrity, altruism, and justice that serve as a framework for standards, professional practice, and evaluation. Values play a key role in any profession including the nursing profession.

How do you deal with a difficult patient interview answer? ›

How to deal with a difficult patient
  1. Create a suitable environment. ...
  2. Listen carefully. ...
  3. Give an empathetic response. ...
  4. Identify the cause of the problem. ...
  5. Ask for help. ...
  6. Repair the relationship. ...
  7. Maintain professionalism. ...
  8. Use appropriate nonverbal communication.
Mar 10, 2023

What is the most important C in nursing? ›

Care is the first C; Care is defined as the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something. The primary duty of the nurse is to care for the patient. Amongst all the C's this is the most important.

Why does nursing interest people? ›

It's a career that provides meaningful work, career growth opportunities, diverse specialty options, high earning potential, job stability, schedule flexibility, and more. Not only do nurses feel personally fulfilled through their work; they also reap the professional benefits throughout their career.

Can nurses cry in front of patients? ›

Nursing is stressful.

Djordjevic explains that "crying with a patient can benefit both medical personnel and patient. Firstly, because it's a cathartic experience for medical staff given they're relieving stress, and secondly, because they're able to create a more meaningful bond with their patient."

What do nurses do emotionally? ›

Besides providing medical attention, they also provide important emotional support. Nurses are fitness coaches and cheerleaders, grief counselors and hand-holders. Their tasks include helping their patients through emotional challenges and creating a comforting bedside manner.

What is it called when nurses fall in love with patients? ›

The Florence Nightingale effect is a trope where a caregiver falls in love with their patient, even if very little communication or contact takes place outside of basic care. Feelings may fade once the patient is no longer in need of care.

What personality type are most nurses? ›

An article found in NursingStandard explained that one of the most common personality types discovered amongst nurses is ISFJ (introvert, sensing, feeling, and judging). This personality type can be described as quiet but friendly and responsible. Loyal and committed to their obligations.

Why are nurses admired? ›

1. Nurses combine science and technology with care and compassion. A strong sense of compassion sets nurses apart — and it's the reason many enter the profession in the first place. Nurses have the opportunity to heal with a combination of clinical expertise and sheer altruism.

Why nurses are so good? ›

Nurses don't just provide clinical care and medication, they provide emotional support for their patients and the patient's family members, which is particularly important in the hospital where it helps to have a human connection during what is often a scary time.

How do you know if nursing is not for you? ›

So, ask yourself how caring are you of other individuals and their needs. In order to be a good nurse, you have to deeply care about people. If you are one of those types of people who just worry about themselves and do not really concentrate on how to help others, then nursing really is not for you.

What nurses should not say? ›

5 Things Nurses Must Never Say To Patients
  • “Wait for a while. We're still busy.” ...
  • “This won't hurt at all.” False assurances can lead to distrust, particularly in children. ...
  • “Oh, no.” ...
  • “I completely understand, [insert the time you've experienced the similar situation].” ...
  • “I'm not sure.”
Jan 19, 2017

What nurses should not do to patients? ›

4 Things Nurses Should Never Say to Patients
  • Nurses should never complain about another caregiver. ...
  • Save personal conversations for between shifts. ...
  • Keep your personal and religious beliefs to yourself. ...
  • Never act too busy to give a client attention and care.
Mar 26, 2018

How do nurses calm patients? ›

Nurses can help reduce patient anxiety through many methods including effective communication, active listening, personal visits, medication, music, and aromatherapy. Each nurse develops ways to recognize signs that patients feel anxious or in distress.

What do nurses feel when a patient dies? ›

The most common include a sense of helplessness and abandonment, anger and sorrow. Emotional pain is a stimulus prompting a nurse to limit contact with the dying person and with his/her relatives.

Is being a nurse mentally draining? ›

Make Time For Fun. Nurses can easily get dragged down by the difficult and draining nature of the job, making life feel heavy and stressful. Focusing on difficult and hard things day after day while pouring out energy and compassion for others can lead to burnout and depression.

Why do nurses need to be emotionally intelligent? ›

Emotional Intelligence in nursing practice is important because, more often than not, nurses interact with patients and families who have challenging situations and conditions. Nurses need to understand that they are encountering patients and families in a state of emotional distress.


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