Falling in love with a patient is not an everyday occurrence, but it is bound to happen from time to time.
If you have ever experienced a doctor falling in love with you, or if you know someone who has had a doctor fall in love with them, you may be wondering what it is called when a doctor falls in love with a patient, especially while they are currently treating them.
While there are a few terms and causes for this phenomenon, it is most often referred to as the Florence Nightingale effect (also known as Nightingale Syndrome).
This phenomenon can also be referred to as transference, or erotic transference in some instances.
Understanding what it means when a doctor falls in love with a patient can help those involved to better navigate this complicated and complex situation.
When a doctor falls in love with their patient, they have developed inappropriate feelings when they are supposed to maintain a consumerist relationship.
This may happen suddenly or even over the course of time, especially when a doctor and patient see each other regularly for many months or years.
A consumerist relationship is a relationship that involves at least one of the individuals providing a type of care or service.
Consumerist relationships are typically supposed to remain platonic and business-like so as to not disrupt the level of care or the types of services that are being provided.
There are numerous terms that have been coined to adequately describe a doctor falling in love with a patient of theirs, but one is certainly more common than the others.
One of the most notable phrases used to describe this experience is the Florence Nightingale effect.
The Florence Nightingale effect is named after a nursing pioneer by the name of Florence Nightingale.
She was notorious for visiting patients after-dark, providing kindness and a bedside manner that was previously unheard of throughout the medical industry.
Although Florence was not known for falling in love with her patients, many patients and historical figures recall developing feelings for her due to her sheer kindness and selflessness.
Another term for falling in love with a patient as a doctor is transference, or erotic transference.
Transference is typically classified as the redirection of desires as well as an individual’s feelings that are retained or held within the subconscious towards another individual or, in some cases, even an object.
When a doctor falls in love with a patient, he or she may be unwittingly experiencing transference, especially if they have a connection to the patient that reminds them of a fond memory or their own childhood.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, it is equally as possible for a patient to fall in love with a doctor due to transference, as they may feel as if the doctor is providing them with love and care.
Experiencing love and care from a doctor can remind patients of what it is like to be cared for or it may also be reminiscent of childhood or a buried subconscious memory.
It is not always easy to tell whether a doctor is truly in love with a patient or if they are experiencing a phenomenon such as the Florence Nightingale effect.
For doctors who are falling for patients, self-reflection, as well as self-awareness, is imperative. Knowing how to interpret and deflect feelings of lust, attraction, and romantic pull is essential for any doctor or medical professional.
It is not considered normal for a doctor to fall in love with their patient.
Doctors vow to maintain a consumerist relationship with all patients they agree to take on and treat.
Because of the power dynamic between a doctor and a patient, falling in love with a patient is typically frowned upon.
Doctors who choose to engage in prohibited behavior or relationships with patients are considered in violation of numerous medical and patient boundaries.
This can and often results in terminations and in some cases, even further harassment lawsuits.
It is not uncommon for a patient to find themselves attracted to their doctor, especially if they find their doctor to be charming and appreciate their healing abilities.
However, the same rules and regulations still apply to doctors whose patients fall in love with them.
Doctors are still not permitted to engage in romantic or sexual relationships with their patients.
The only way for a doctor to pursue a personal relationship in any capacity with a patient of his or hers is to first terminate the patient relationship they have already established.
If the doctor and patient are aware of the rules and boundaries, the patient is no longer permitted to see their doctor in a professional capacity.
The doctor who is entering into a personal relationship with a former patient must also inform their employer of their decision as well as of their choice regarding their relationship.
Depending on the doctor’s place of employment, they may or may not be able to retain their position.
Some places of employment deploy a zero-tolerance rule when it comes to befriending or pursuing a personal relationship with patients anywhere outside of the office.
Why is it necessary to terminate a patient relationship before pursuing a romantic, sexual, or personal relationship with a patient?
For doctors, relationships with patients are supposed to remain strictly platonic and consumerist at all times, even if a doctor is attracted to the patient or interested in pursuing them further.
Because doctors have a power dynamic that is unequal when treating patients, it is considered inappropriate to pursue any relationship other than consumerist, even if both parties are attracted to one another.
If you suspect that your doctor is falling in love with you, this may cause you to feel uncomfortable or, in some cases, even attracted to him or her in return.
However, it is important to keep in mind that a doctor-patient relationship is inappropriate and also crosses a variety of boundaries.
If you suspect that your doctor may have feelings for you and you are uncomfortable, you can take the following steps:
- Avoid scheduling appointments with your doctor and instead, seek out an alternative medical professional
- Inform the staff at your doctor’s office of your doctor’s inappropriate behavior and/or speech
- Confront your doctor correctly to request that they only continue treating you in a professional manner
- Report your doctor for any inappropriate behavior, speech, or actions directly to your state’s medical board
If you believe your doctor has feelings for you and they are reciprocated, it is important to abide by rules that have already been established.
If you are thinking of pursuing a relationship with your doctor, you must first consider the following:
- Consider severing your patient/doctor relationship as quickly as possible, especially if you are both interested in pursuing a personal relationship outside of the doctor’s office.
- Review workplace policies regarding disclosure and employment to know the proper steps to take in order to prevent any rule breaking.
- Discuss boundaries as well as potential negative power dynamics that may influence your relationship if they have not already.
While it is unconventional to pursue a relationship with a doctor outside of the office, it does and has happened in real life from time to time.
Yes. Due to different state laws, privacy laws, and HIIPA laws, a doctor can be fired for pursuing a personal relationship with a patient.
In some instances, a place of employment is the sole determinator of a doctor’s future career, which is why it is imperative for doctors to understand the proper code of conduct whenever they are treating patients in a professional and public setting.
Doctors are only human, so it is natural for them to have feelings regarding their patients, especially if they genuinely care for them or have been treating them for years.
It is perfectly normal for a doctor to experience a range of emotions and feelings when treating patients for whom they care.
In some instances, doctors may cry when they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
Although this is rare, it is possible that a doctor may cry when he or she is feeling extremely attached to a patient or empathetic to their struggles and suffering.
Yes, doctors can hug their patients, as long as their patients are comfortable receiving hugs from them as well.
While most doctors may prefer to give a handshake upon seeing their patients, others are more friendly, especially to patients they have been treating for years or, in some cases, even decades.
Doctors can improve the way that they maintain a consumerist relationship with each of their patients by implementing the following tips into their daily work routines:
- Spend at least a few minutes during each visit getting to know more about their patients personally
- Ask questions regarding their ailments or conditions that may help to schedule tests or for future diagnostic purposes
- Showcase care and empathy when patients are speaking and expressing themselves
- Pay attention while patients are in the room and speaking, providing eye contact and validation
- Build trust with patients over time
- Offer culturally sensitive resources and additional bilingual support resources for patients in need
In order for a doctor to build and maintain trust, they need to work on the relationships they cultivate with their patients.
When seeing a patient in the office, a doctor may only have anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes for the entire appointment, which can leave a patient feeling unheard and disheartened.
Taking the time to build patient relationships while keeping the focus on a consumerist relationship is also a way to avoid crossing boundaries or falling for patients.