I once had a ten year old patient ask me to marry him on a call because I reminded him of AJ- the WWE diva.
Um, sure I do kid.
I’ve also had a ninety year old patient ask for my picture because that would apparently make him feel better.
I’ve seen an intoxicated patient cop a feel of my female partner’s rear end.
I’ve heard middle age patients compliment my male partners on their handsomeness.
I’ve also had a teenager scream sexual obscenities in my face complete with pelvic thrusting. The PD had fun with that call.
Patient attraction is something often discussed by doctors in medical school, but not so much in the world of EMS- perhaps because we usually don’t deal with the same patients longer than a few hours. But as I mentioned, it clearly happens- sometimes the sight of a uniform can really bring out the salaciousness in people.
However, in my experience generally if the patient is flirting it’s a good thing- it indicates they aren’t in the “golden hour.”
Sometimes flirting is a way for patients to deflect- they are embarrassed by all the attention so they try to project it on to someone else. Knowing this is a good reminder to not take it personally (by getting flustered or nervous).
A little joking around (within your comfort and professional zones) sometimes eases the situation’s tension and creates a less stressful experience for the person. However- don’t let patient projection be misleading, it may be stemming from denial.
The flirting, especially if it is not sexual in nature, may simply be an expression of appreciation for your professional dress or demeanor. Accepting compliments appropriately is ok- just remember to keep doing your job. When I started practicing I was definitely thrown off my game the first couple times a patient flirted with me- aren’t we supposed to be in the middle of an emergency here??
On the other hand, sometimes after a crappy shift it’s kind of nice to “cure” someone with a smile.
Flirty patients usually make for a chuckle with your partner after the call. Medics are good at laughing things off- but something we are not so great at is talking about when things make us feel icky. Our culture grooms us to be able to handle almost anything while simultaneously appearing unfazed.
For the rest of the newbs out there, here are a few step by step tricks I’ve learned for handling the patients who become a little too persistent and perhaps make you feel uncomfy….
1. Dismiss the comment- no reaction is often an effective reaction.
2. Redirection. Steer the conversation back to why they called 911 in the first place.
3. Don’t do exams alone.
4. The ol’ stink eye. Be aware of your own body language.
5. “Thank you, but I’m not interested.”
6. Call them out on their behavior politely (but not too politely- think assertive).
7. Tell them how it’s making you feel (aka uncomfortable) and that what they are doing is inappropriate.
8. Ask your partner to run the call if they are the opposite sex or aren’t having the same issues. We’ve done this recently with a patient who was being simultaneously flirty and aggressive towards me.
9. If the situation has mutated from flirting to harassment or assault, inform them that the police would be interested in hearing about it.
10. Involve the police.
11. Sometimes the patient may require restraint if the lewd behavior is due to them being altered. Of course this is a last resort but it’s definitely an option.
Have a sexy day,
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