Health care boundaries are defined by regulatory colleges
(NC) When you deal with any health care professional, you are both providing something essential. The professional provides care and you provide trust.
“This is a unique relationship, where professionals have the power, and patients are the ones who are vulnerable,” says Linda Gough, president of the Federation of Health Regulatory Colleges of Ontario (FHRCO). “The relationship needs physical and emotional space to work for you. Boundaries offer that space – an ethical line, which professionals always have to be careful about crossing.”
FHRCO includes 26 regulatory colleges (www.regulatedhealthprofessions.on.ca). They set requirements for entering the profession, run quality assurance programs, and hold nearly 300,000 member professionals accountable for their conduct and practice.
That includes standards around professional boundaries, says Gough. Many boundary violations are obvious, like a caregiver pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient or client, or touching you inappropriately. But lots of other behaviour that might seem innocent or unintentional could still cause problems.
For instance, if a health care professional shares secrets with you, tries to involve you in a business deal, or asks to see you outside the care setting, the roles can be blurred. When that happens, the professional might not be thinking of your needs first.
“Crossing boundaries can potentially betray your trust, and take advantage of your vulnerability,” explains Gough. “That can lead to situations where a professional is stepping out of their caring role, and isn't acting in your best interests.”
Even when patients or clients themselves try to cross a line, it's up to the health care professional to maintain the proper boundaries.
What should you do if you feel uncomfortable about your relationship with a health care professional, or feel that your care is being affected negatively because of it? You have the right to bring it up with your provider or their employer. You can also raise concerns with the professional's regulatory college; see the FHRCO website for links to all the colleges.
“Keeping professional boundaries in place helps reassure you that your care is being delivered in a safe, ethical and respectful way,” says Gough.
Word count: 347
Attention editors: This article is for distribution in Ontario only.
Articles are provided free of charge. Articles appearing on web sites, must credit www.newscanada.com. Articles appearing in Print, must credit News Canada with (NC) at beginning of an article or – News Canada at the end. Any source/sponsor of the information quoted in the text must also be identified as presented. Images are only to be used with corresponding editorial copy. Usage of News Canada articles constitutes your acceptance of these terms and an agreement between you and News Canada.