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How Professional Boundaries Keep Us Safe

One larger right hand in marble reaches towards and grasps a smaller right hand. Both hands emerge from the same block.
Author’s photo Rodin Museum, Paris

Author’s photos Rodin Museum, Paris

B-E T-E-S-T-E-D to find yourself on the right side of the line of power

Your professor pays you many compliments, offers a research position and invites you to stay with them after hours to work…

Your counselor is overly complementary about your attractiveness and offers to help you work on your marriage without the presence of your partner while complaining about their own marriage.

Your boss/preceptor invites you pet sit in their home, then to co-present a paper at an out of town conference, dinner followed by hotel room….

A favourite patient who is about to be discharged asks to be “friends” on Face Book.

A patient gives you a generous “free sample” of a product they market. Do you accept?

You are having romantic dreams about a client and look forward immensely to their next visit.


BOUNDARIES= Best practice requires self-awareness and objectivity

EXPECTATION of clear roles= Put best interests of employees/patients before your own needs

TRANSPARENCY= Could you tell someone? Including your professional college, superiors, head office? Avoid isolating yourself from colleagues.

EXCEPTIONS= Altering standard plans or regular (office) hours is a red flag

SELF-DISCLOSURE = Can lead to burdensome and confusing role reversal.

TRUST= You hold a position of power

EXPLOITATION= What are you gaining? Potential long term consequences?

DOCUMENT= Could you write it down? Where? What is your rationale for this being in the employee /patient’s long term best interests

Two right hands in marble face one another touching at the fingers.
Author’s photo ‘The Cathedral’ Rodin Museum, Paris



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Isak Dinesen

Isak Dinesen

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. What the world needs is people who have come alive. " - Howard Thurman (AfricanAmerican)