February — month of Love?

Everyone loves February. It’s the cute little month with only 28 days (most of the time). And it also has that special holiday, Valentine’s Day. But someone also referred to it as Singles Awareness Day. So I guess there’s a mixed audience when it comes to that day.

This month I also had a couple of hours of lectures covering topics like sexual relationships with patients, dating, marriage, and adultery. Those are the ones I can think of right now but I don’t think I’m missing any February-related topics.

The class where we learned about sexual relationships — I think the lecture was titled “Sexual Boundaries” — was called Understanding Your Patient. The course director is a practicing psychiatrist. I’ll sheepishly admit that I would probably have a hard time explaining what that class is all about. At least not very succinctly. Listing some of the other topics discussed in that class might help paint the picture, though. We’ve talked about how to partner with our patients with a goal of better healthcare (as opposed to giving orders). We’ve discussed breaking bad news to patients. We’ve talked about aging and the difficulties associated with it. We’ve also talked about child abuse, red flags that we might encounter, and the responsibility to report our suspicions to the appropriate higher-ups.

We spent two whole hours talking about sexual boundaries. The take home message for those two hours? Don’t have sex with your patients.

We heard about doctors having their license taken away for getting involved with their patients. We learned that psychiatrists, because of the intimate nature of their work, can never get involved with their patients. A surgeon, who after operating on a patient, may be able to date the patient as long as number of years has passed. I guess the point was that “they” don’t want a physician to abuse his or her “power differential.”

A few days later, in a religion class called “Wholeness for Physicians,” we were talking about adultery. The instructor, who is a practicing psychologist, warned us that it is very easy for physicians to go down this path. Doctors at work, he told us, are constantly being attended to by the nurses. There is a very friendly relationship there (hopefully). And when the doctor goes home, he or she hears, “Honey, I’m tired. Watch the kids.”

Eventually the doctor begins to compare the spouse with the attractive young nurse. It can be a recipe for disaster. I think I understand the dynamics now.

So that was my experience during the month of love. That was the extent of my foray into anything close to relationship or romance — I listened to lectures about it.