How do you feel about hugging patients?

I hadn’t given much thought to this question. I am hearing more and more discussions about health providers hugging patients. I am also seeing more being written on this topic then I have ever seen written before.

Should nurses hug their patients? Some might think this should be an easy question to answer. I don’t find that to be the case. I think it is a complex question for nurses to answer.

In the current environment of high tech/low touch in health care many patients are yearning for high touch. Touch can convey so much between nurse and patient. Touch can reflect caring and concern. In a way, touching is a means of putting caring back into health care.

Does it matter if the nurse is male or female? Does it matter if the patient is male or female? I think it does. I believe many male nurses would not dare hug a patient. Men typically don’t hug each other and may feel that they are risking a potential law suit if they were to hug a female patient. However, these questions might get a different answer if the patient is very young such as in a pediatric practice.

What if the patient initiates the hug? Does this change things? If a patient initiated the hug would you shy away from them? How could you avoid the hug without offending them?

Does it matter where you live? Would it be different if you are in the Midwest or the South in the United States? What if you were in China? What if you were in Pakistan?

What about the setting? Would the answer to the question about nurses hugging patients be different in the hospital, in a clinic, in a long term care facility, in a case management setting, or in a hospice setting?

I have asked more questions as opposed to given firm answers or decisive comments on the topic of nurses hugging patients. However, I hope that I have given you much to think about.

I am aware of some nurses who simply don’t think a nurse should ever hug a patient. They believe that it blurs the line between the nurse as a professional or a friend.

As you can see, I do not think that there is an easy answer to this question. My answer to the question I ask would change based on the different variables. How about you? Would your answer be the same or differ dependent on the situation?

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