We developed this practice scenario to help nurses understand their accountabilities when they are considering engaging in any sexual behaviour with a former client, in addition to emphasizing to nurses why they must never engage in any sexual behaviour with a vulnerable former client.
If you have any questions about the practice scenario, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a nurse, can I date a former client?
Questions to reflect on:
- Is there an appropriate period of time that must pass before I can date a former client?
- When is a former client considered vulnerable and how does client vulnerability impact my decision?
A client’s vulnerability in the nurse-client relationship is based on the power imbalance that exists between the nurse and the client. As a result, there is always a degree of vulnerability that exists between a nurse and a former client.
While the vulnerability lessens over time, the exact length of time is not defined because it is based on factors relevant to each former client’s circumstances. Nurses considering dating or engaging in sexual behaviour with a former client must consider all of the former client’s circumstances. Failure to do so may result in a finding of professional misconduct.
A former client is considered a vulnerable former client if the nurse-client relationship was predominantly psychotherapeutic care. This includes but is not limited to mental health, addictions and chronic care. Vulnerable former clients require particular consideration and protection given their ongoing vulnerability and will always be considered vulnerable regardless of the time passed. Nurses must never date or engage in any form of sexual behaviour with a vulnerable former client. Doing so will result in a finding of professional misconduct.
The Sexual Misconduct Standards of Practice for Nurses (2020) states that nurses must not engage in sexual misconduct. The indicators for this standard specific to this question are the following:
- Maintain the therapeutic and professional boundary with a current, former or vulnerable former client.
- Do not communicate with and solicit a current or vulnerable former client in person or through written or electronic means for the purpose of entering into a dating, sexual or romantic relationship.
- Do not engage in any form of sexual behaviour or behaviour that could reasonably be perceived as sexual in nature with a current or vulnerable former client.
- Click here for more information and practice support tools related to the Sexual Misconduct Standard of Practice for Nurses. For further information on anything contained within this practice scenario, contact a Practice Consultant at email@example.com.