Dating for Nurses

A kiss may be considered casual, but there can be an exchange of body fluids and potential risk of exposure to communicable diseases.

A kiss may be considered casual, but there can be an exchange of body fluids and potential risk of exposure to communicable diseases.

The dating experience isn’t what is used to be. Dating is far different than when I was in high school in the late 1960’s.   Blood tests used to be required before a marriage license could be issued. In fact when I married in 1968 (at too young an age), I recall having to have those same obligatory blood tests. I never knew why, in fact I didn’t even know what those tests were supposed to reveal. I simply knew having the required blood tests were the law. Ironically, those laws were changed shortly before HIV/AIDs, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C were in the spotlight. Dating for Nurses was written because of concerns about transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. When you’re a Registered Nurse or health care professional, there is nothing casual about dating relationships, regardless of the reckless behaviors you see portrayed on such popular TV series as Grey’s Anatomy.

I am not proud to say that I’ve had two failed marriages. Both of those marriages ended because I was the one who filed for divorce. Those irreconcilable differences were because I have a “no share” policy. I simply will not stay in a relationship with someone who is sexually immoral. (Matthew 5:32) For more than 25 years after the last marriage ended, I did not date. I simply had no desire to date.   I had given up on marriage or having a meaningful relationship with the opposite sex. My focus was on the important tasks of educating my children and obtaining my baccalaureate degree in nursing.  I was totally committed to these tasks because there was no room for failure.

I have seen many newly-divorced men and women in our church singles department jump back into new dating relationships too soon, bringing their brokenness with them. They hadn’t taken time out to heal and to learn from their past.   Too often, newly divorced people don’t even know what they want (or don’t want) in a relationship. A friend once told me that if someone was 80% of what I was looking for, then the relationship was worth exploring further. This was wise counsel. If I happen to encounter, my Mr. Right, I’d first like to know WHY he is my Mr. Right instead of another Mr. Dead Wrong.

One day at church, I asked our singles minister if he thought I’d been single long enough now so as not to appear to be rushing into a new relationship if I decided to date again. My question was met with laughter (the reaction I expected). He assured me that I have certainly been single long enough. Taking time out is not a bad thing. I took 26 years.

Dating for seniors (& I don’t mean high school) is challenging. Dating for nurses is even tougher. In a nurse’s world, there is nothing casual about physical contact.   I have been a nurse for 26 years and counting. In that time frame, I have worked in most every practice setting of nursing, from public health to correctional (prison) nursing. I have provided direct care to patients with Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus (VRE), methicillin-resistant staphylococcus (MRSA), C. difficile, Hepatitis A, B & C, venereal warts, syphilis, gonorrhea, scabies, herpes, shingles, tuberculosis (TB) and more.

My nursing specialty for the past 18 of those 26 years has been wound care. I have vigilantly used personal protective equipment of masks, gloves and gowns. I have had several unfortunate exposures from sharps and needle sticks, but thankfully I have not contracted a communicable disease.

Dating for nurses is a unique and scary experience.  A nurse goes from an environment where they take extreme care to prevent exposures and exchange of bodily fluids that would put them at risk. Sometimes nurses know when someone has a communicable disease. Sometimes we have already been in contact with them before we know. Sometimes we never know.

Recently I broke my 26-year time out and accepted a dinner date with a gentleman who seemed to be very nice. I use the word “seemed” because when you first meet someone, you receive only the information they want to share. In high school, most of us had very little (if any) prior dating history. Throughout several decades of life, a relationship history develops and the exposure risk goes up exponentially.

“Bill” was very thoughtful; he even brought a single red rose to our first date. That was a first for me. Holding hands was awkward. I don’t recall anybody ever walking beside me and holding my hand before. I recall thinking it would be nice to get used to this. I was aware of my own need for personal space. This experience is brand new in this chapter of my life. We had a nice dinner together and after several hours of great conversation (& laughter), it was getting late and time to say good night.   I had told him beforehand that I needed to take things s-l-o-w. Why rush after 26 years of time out?   The kiss on the cheek was stolen and I felt my face blush. I suddenly realized that I really knew nothing about this man. Before you think “oh how sweet,” let me remind you this article is about dating for nurses. There is nothing casual about a kiss. It is no longer the 60’s and we are no longer children.   Not even a background check would reveal the kind of history a nurse would be concerned with knowing. It’s that whole exchange of bodily fluids thing that makes me cringe now. When I was 16, I never gave a thought to exchange of bodily fluids with a single kiss.

A thought-provoking simple little kiss on the cheek

A thought-provoking simple little kiss on the cheek

There was not a second date. That was my decision because of several phone conversations we had later in the week. I discovered there were major “issues” with estrangement from family and major differences in some really important personal values.   Sometimes it is easier to see the reality before the vision gets clouded with romance. Perhaps that’s an advantage to being more mature. Perhaps it’s a disadvantage. I just know that I made a promise to myself that the husband I would choose if I married again would be a man of strong faith and a spiritual leader. He would be a man committed to family and serving the Lord. “Bill” was neither.  That didn’t make him a bad person, that just meant he wasn’t my “Mr. Right.”

For those of you who have dated after you became health care professionals, what went through your mind, even with a kiss? How much did you know about that person you had intimate contact with? Did you use personal protective equipment? We are certainly trained to protect ourselves at work, why not elsewhere?   Just because there is no risk of pregnancy doesn’t mean there isn’t risk of communicable disease. It’s something to think about and prepare for in advance. There’s a lot to be said for old-fashioned dating and abstinence (no sex until marriage). That’s an excellent example of taking it s-l-o-w and getting to know your partner’s history before you commit your life (& perhaps your health) to the relationship.

I’d love to hear your comments!

Pam Baker, RN






Matthew 5:32

32 oBut I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and pwhoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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