Professional Boundaries

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What are Professional Boundaries?

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia – Professional boundaries allow nurses, the person and the person’s nominated partners, family and friends, to engage safely and effectively in professional relationships, including where care involves personal and/or intimate contact.

In fact, professional boundaries are the line that we cannot cross. It is the difference between a therapeutic professional relationship and a relationship where the needs of the clinician outweigh the needs of the client.

Recently we interviewed Dr Wendy Mcintosh from Davaar Consultancy at the Nursing and Midwifery Emporium on the topic of Professional Boundaries. Wendy educates widely on the topic and has an interesting and simple approach that you can apply to judge if your relationship with a client has overstepped the professional boundary mark.

Wendy suggests that most boundary transgressions are not terrible acts – it could be something as simple as cooking an elderly client a meal. Even more importantly Wendy identified four questions you should ask yourself in regards to boundary transgression.

Let’s look at the example of cooking a client (Mary) a meal:

Question one.
What was the intent or purpose of the act? You might answer but Mary had no one to cook her a meal and I did not want her to go hungry.

Question two.
Who’s needs were being met? You might answer Mary’s of course – she needed a meal and I cooked it for her.

Question Three.
Were there other options that you could have taken? Well yes – I could have organised meals on wheels, or I could have referred her to community care to take her shopping for ready-made meals. Likewise I could have organised a private meal delivery service.

Question Four.
What stopped you taking the other options? Here you can see that it was the Nurses need to be needed that was being met not Mary’s. The Nurse was right to identify a potential nutrition problem but the professional response was to organise services to address the identified issue. Consequently, Professional boundaries were crossed when the Nurse chose to cook the meal.

Remember – what you do for one client you need to be able to do for all.

The really good news, though, is that professional boundary education is widely available. You could attend one of the fabulous workshops that Wendy conducts throughout the country. Click here>> to look at the courses that are currently available.

Also, there are a number of webinars on professional boundaries at the Nursing CPD Institute for you to choose from.

If you would like to listen to the full podcast on Professional Boundaries click here>> to go to the Nursing and Midwifery Emporium Podcast.