I’ve heard rumors that some medical schools and teaching hospitals are actually considering or already have put policies in place that prevent romance between attending physicians, residents and medical students. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t surprise me, considering the changing culture of the times. I’m sure this is no different than many other places of employment.
But something's getting lost in the discussion, particularly in healthcare. By the time they come into contact with each other, the average medical students are about 26 years old, resident physicians are maybe 26 to 32, attending physicians are 30 on up and often times students and residents are older than their bosses, having embarked on second careers. Most have been locked away in a classrooms, libraries, clinics and operating rooms since they were 18. Their entire lives and socialization primarily occurs in the hospital.
Now, we’re going tell them that they can’t find love in the workplace because Harvey Weinstein convinced some actresses that the best way to get a part in his movies was by visiting his hotel room. Yes, that’s repulsive. We all know it, but shame on us for cowardly lumping this together. Shame on us for lacking the common sense to realize this stuff in any workplace is not that black and white.
Naturally, this all stems from the rapidly progressing #metoo movement and a host of tabloid exposes on the sexual, abusive, or tasteless behavioral proclivities of celebrities, politicians and the such. I get it. I understand it. These conversations need to be heard. Yet businesses and institutions are now terrified that somehow a failed romance or disparities in employee hierarchy will play themselves out in the courtroom.
In the meantime, though, let’s start over with some common sense.
People fall in love with people they work with. Falling in love is actually a good thing. It’s the greatest thing. You do know that people who do the same job already share a common bond: They understand each other’s work stressors, joys and roadblocks. By default they help each other, listen to each other and that conversation often drifts into things like, “How was your weekend?" Or: “A few of us are headed to O’Malleys after work, you wanna come?”
People who work together get married, they have children, they sit by their bedside when they go through chemo, they help raise their grandchildren and they live long, deep and meaningful lives that should never have to be approved by human resources.
Finding someone who will love you through thick and thin, richer and poorer, who will complete you, be the ying to your yang so to speak is part of that. It doesn’t mean HR should be your matchmaker, but perhaps they can at least stay the f..k out of it until it directly impacts work.
We should not deprive millions of grown adults the opportunity to meet and interact with someone who may become their soulmate, the mother and father of their children, the person who holds their hand through sickness or comforts them in hospice just because during that period of time one might be the other’s supervisor.
I’m not in human resources. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m fairly certain we listen to legal way before we listen to the common sense beating of our hearts. Address sexual harassment at the workplace, quickly and definitively when it arises. Of course, call out abuses of power.
But in the meantime, don’t be so quick to jump from #metoo to #Iloveyou #youarefired.
Dr Louis M. Profeta is an emergency physician practicing in Indianapolis. He is one of LinkedIn's Top Voices and the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Patient in Room Nine Says He's God. Dr Louis holds a medical degree from the Indiana University Bloomington.