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Policies and Procedures

Professional boundaries

  • 1. Procedure Statement

    RCH staff are responsible for maintaining professional boundaries in their day to day work with patients and families.  Professional boundaries enable staff and patient/family to engage safely and effectively in a therapeutic relationship.  

    2. Scope

    This Procedure applies to all RCH employees, students and volunteers, contractors, honorary employees and, Board Members of the Royal Children's Hospital. For the purpose of this procedure, reference to staff is inclusive of all persons listed above.

    3. Definition of Terms

    Professional boundaries are the limits to the relationship of a member of staff and a person in their care which allow for a safe, therapeutic connection between the staff and that person (and their nominated partners, family and friends), protecting both staff and patient/family.   

    4. Procedure details

    Understanding professional boundaries includes recognising the potential conflicts, risks and complexities of providing care to patients for example who have had lengthy, or frequent episodes of care.  It can be challenging and staff should raise any concerns or training needs with their manager.

    Social relationships between RCH staff, patients and their family members are not appropriate and this includes social relationships via social networking sites or electronic means.

    RCH staff visit patients at home only on work related business which is agreed by the team and documented in the EMR.  Requests by patients and families for staff to visit at home outside of these arrangements should be declined by staff, documented in the EMR and discussed with their manager.   

    Staff are encouraged to declare to their manager if there is a pre-existing social relationship (acquaintance, friend, relative connection etc.) with a patient or their family.  The Manager will manage any declaration sensitively, maintain confidentially at all times and only inform others on a need to know basis.

    Breaches of professional boundaries will be managed in line with existing RCH procedures to ensure the safety of staff and patients/families is managed accordingly.

    5. Support for Staff

    Staff should feel comfortable to disclose any personal relationship that may impact their ability to perform their role on the basis of professional boundary challenges, to their manager. If this is not possible or the preferred option, staff should raise their concern with a HR Partner for assistance and next steps.

    Support to staff, including the potential to extract staff from situations or instances where professional boundaries may be challenged, can be enabled through 1-1 discussion between a manager and the staff member concerned. Strategies to support staff to feel safe to perform their role may need to be developed, subject to the circumstances.

    Staff are reminded of options to discuss issues of this nature, including the RCH Employee Assistance Program provided by Converge International, or the RCH Peer Support program for counselling and support.

    6. Reference

    A Nurse's Guide to Professional Boundaries - Australian Nursing & Midwifery Board - February 2010

    Code of Conduct for Registered Health Practitioners - Pharmacy Board of Australia March 2014

    Code of Conduct for Registered Health Practitioners - Physiotherapy Board of Australia March 2014

    Code of Ethics - The Australian Psychological Society Ltd September 2007

    Good Medical Practice: A code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia - Australian Medical Council March2014

    7. Related Policy/Procedures

    RCH Code of Conduct

    RCH Patient's Rights and Responsibilities

    RCH Informed Consent Procedure

    RCH Culturally Appropriate Healthcare Delivery to Aboriginal Patients and their Families Procedure

    RCH Social Media Procedure

    RCH Safe & Positive Workplace Behaviours Procedure

    8. Contacts

    Executive Director People & Culture