Ask a Nurse: Is It OK to Date a Nurse Coworker?

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Updated April 6, 2023

When you spend hours together each week, an attraction can develop. Consider the benefits and challenges to dating a nurse coworker.
Credit: SDI Productions / Getty Images

In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.


Question: Is it OK to date a nurse coworker?

It depends. Romance among healthcare workers is the stuff of television dramas and comedies. In reality, they are often without the intense drama and ramifications portrayed on TV. 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. Like any potentially life-altering decision, it's best when you understand the possible benefits and/or repercussions.

If you're interested in dating a nurse coworker, our contributors advise you to weigh the pros and cons.

Dating a Nurse Coworker: Pros and Cons

Brian Clark is a certified registered nurse anesthetist and founder of United Medical Education. He believes that you must first decide if the person you have met is worth getting to know better and could potentially lead to something serious.

Of course, it's impossible to know if a serious relationship will bloom, but his advice centers on taking an objective look at the person and determining if there is potential. Dr. Sean Byers is a medical advisor at Health Report Live. He believes that, though it can be tricky, when approached with thoughtfulness and respect it can be a rewarding experience.

Clark and Byers stress that you must weigh the pros and cons of dating a nurse coworker before stepping into those murky waters.

Let's explore some of the potential advantages and pitfalls before you take the first step.

Pros

  • You may have met the love of your life.
  • You have a built-in relationship and friendship at work before you start dating.
  • You both understand the demands and stresses of nursing and healthcare. This means you can offer support and advice to each other when it's needed.
  • You bypass the games and endless streams of potential matches on online dating sites and apps.
  • You have common interests and a shared work life.
  • Your work life may be more enjoyable when you have someone to share common experiences and swap stories with.

Cons

  • If it doesn't work out, there can be a lot of tension when you still have to see that person at work.
  • If either of you can't get past the awkwardness, your boss may insist that one of you transfer or leave.
  • Your work schedules may be difficult to sync with personal schedules, which may make it difficult to see the person you're dating.
  • Your job performance could suffer whether it works out or doesn't.
  • Dating someone from work blurs the lines between your personal and professional life.
  • The situation can get tricky if one person is in a supervisory position over the other.
  • You may get tired of seeing each other every day and talking about work.

What Should You Consider Before Dating a Nurse Coworker?

As you consider the pros and cons of dating a nurse coworker, there are factors you must consider that might make your decision easier. Working through these issues can help you decide how to proceed.

  • Take Off the Rose-Colored Glasses

    You might believe that you've met the partner of your dreams. But before plunging into waters that may derail your career, take the time for an objective view of the person you are considering dating. Be mindful of the potential damage to your job, career, and friendships.

  • What's the Worst Case Scenario?

    You don't want to start a relationship planning for the worst that could happen, but in this case, it is wise. What if you break up and your love interest starts dating your best friend? What if one of you gets promoted, or you both have to leave your job? Is it OK to date a nurse coworker if these are the consequences?

  • It Must Be Safe to Say No

    No matter who is doing the asking, it is imperative that you are responsible when you ask. Be aware of the power dynamics and what may be construed as subtle forms of pressure. Read the social cues carefully and only ask out someone from work once. "No" means no.

  • Can Both of You Be Professional?

    If things don't work out, and even if they do, can both of you remain professional at work? You also want to ensure no one harasses, discriminates, or retaliates against the other if you break up.

Navigating Emotions After a Shared Trauma

Byers warns nurses about bonding over a trauma that can be "complicated and can be very emotional. They can be positive or negative. It all depends on the individuals involved and how the relationship plays out over time."

This is different from trauma bonds, which is a bond that is formed with someone who traumatizes you. Healthcare professionals may experience shared trauma when they work in an emergency room or intensive care unit. It can happen when a favorite patient dies or a parent loses their infant.

Shared pain can bring people together, such as alcoholic parents or guardians and abusive childhoods. However, this is an unstable foundation to build a solid relationship. Pay attention to this natural pattern. Recognize the potential behavior and seek to build a solid relationship on shared nontraumatic experiences.

In Summary:

  • Romance among healthcare workers isn't always as portrayed in television dramas and comedies.
  • Some employers allow dating, and others adamantly enforce consequences on those who do.
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of dating a nurse coworker before taking the plunge, such as building a friendship at work before dating, having common interests, and understanding the demands of healthcare and nursing.
  • Disadvantages include seeing that person every day at work if it doesn't work out and blurring the lines between personal and professional lives.
  • Before asking someone out, take an objective view of the individual and ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen and if you can both stay professional.
  • Recognize that shared pain or trauma can bring people together, but this is an unstable foundation to build a solid relationship.
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Our Integrity Network

NurseJournal.org is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for NurseJournal.org as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

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