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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Sara Dale, RN: Caring Nurse or Predator? What's Your Call?

Published May 12, 2010 3:19 PM by Valerie Newitt
You probably don't know the name Sara Dale, RN - then again, perhaps you do. The British nurse has been the target of investigations, allegations of scandal, and loss of livelihood since it came to light that she had romantic relationships with the spouses of her deceased patients.

As you can well imagine, it's a story well-suited for the tabloid press of London. This RN has been vilified in headlines.  On March 10, 2010, for example, The Sun proclaimed "Cancer nurse bedded three victims' wives."

   Wait a minute - victims? Did she kill her patients to romance their husbands? Was she playing footsy with visitors as their loved ones withered away? It doesn't sound that way to me. After reading a great number of these tabloid accounts, I have come to this conclusion: Sara Dale cared. Too much. Too often.

Dale was a palliative care nurse, working at Queen Elizabeth National Health Service Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk. She was dismissed of her duties in January after her relationships became public knowledge, and she was "debadged" by the MacMillan cancer support charity with which she was associated. As her case moves before the British Nursing and Midwifery Council, she may indeed be barred from nursing altogether.

 It's interesting to note Dale was a revered, professional nurse and held in highest regard by colleagues, prior to reports of her romances which were trumpeted in anonymous letters sent to the hospital. There seems to be general agreement that Dale entered into these relationships well after the patients she cared for died. Dale has stated, "I have never had an affair with a patient's partner." To clarify, these were not one-night stands; these were "long" and "committed" relationships by some 21st century standards.

While some say there have been three such relationships, Dale has claimed there were two - one lasting 10 years, and her current relationship which she calls true "love."

What becomes evident upon Googling this case: The public seems to support Sara Dale. Many posters on diverse websites and message boards suggest it is "understandable" Dale would grow emotionally close to the people she supported in her work and as long as the relationships occurred after the deaths of her patients, no harm was done.

I'm on the fence. Certainly she committed no "sin," in my view. But as a former cancer patient, I'm not sure I would have wanted to see a nurse staring moon-eyed at my spouse as I received a chemo drip.

What do you think?

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