When I was doing research for this short article (asking my wife, speaking to two other RNs), I ran across the Medscape site where a really nerdy healthcare attorney warned about the possible legal ramifications of a nurse hugging her/his patient when the patient requested a hug. Are you kidding me? If you have nothing better to do than worry about being sued for giving a requested hug, can we please trade lives? Seriously, have we become so litigious that all we are concerned with is being accused of molestation by hugs? Give me a break! I will admit that a hug can be perceived in different ways by different people, but I refuse to live my life in a way that would stop me from showing affection towards someone I care about, especially when they are asking for it. That’s like saying, “He asked me to shake his hand, but I don’t want to be sued from touching his hand.” So, let’s skip the legal aspect please!
In short, if a patient asks you (his/her nurse) to give him a hug, and you want to, then hug them! I’m not saying that you should necessarily grope them, or make it an hour long hug for the romance novels, but by all means do what you want to do. If you care for the person, and genuinely want to express it, and they asked you to do so, then hug them!
Now if a patient that is covered in MRSA and feces asks you for some affection, and you want to do it, I think you’re probably nuts and need to get some better meds. But if you want to hug Patient Virus, go for it! You may want to disinfect afterwards, but that’s your call.
The flip side of the coin is, “Patient Gross asked me for a hug. I didn’t want to but I didn’t know what to say.” I can help you with this one because generally speaking I’m not a huggy type of fella either (people scare me). I say something along the lines of, “Aww Mr. Gross, you’re too nice. How about a high five buddy?” I then slap their hand really quick as I smile and walk away. I acknowledged that they wanted to say “thank you”, I declined their request, but I gave them something else in it’s place- a high five. Problem solved.
On the other side of the coin (it’s a 3 sided coin, just go with me please), should a patient hug his nurse? I can honestly say that there is nothing wrong with offering a hug to anyone, whether that be you nurse, doctor, priest, or even a guy on death row. If you, the patient, want to say thank you to your nurse, go for it. Of course don’t be a groper and creeper, but if you are kind of normal, and not a weirdo, ask your healthcare worker for a hug all you want to.
Now if your nurse responds with a high five instead, you know where he learned that from!
How about you? How do you feel about patients wanting to hug you? Are you a lawyer that’s afraid of sexual harassment? Are you a robot that doesn’t understand physical interactions? Are you a hugging machine that likes to hold onto anyone that’s willing? Your thoughts are wanted and appreciated.
P.S. Can I have a hug?
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