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Professional versus personal relationships

Knowing the differences

What are the differences?

Knowing the differences between personal and professional relationships can help you recognize when professional boundaries between the two may be blurred or crossed.

Characteristic

Professional
(nurse-client)

Personal
(casual, friendship, romantic, sexual)

Behaviour

Regulated by a code of ethics and professional standards. Framed by Agency policy.

Guided by personal values and beliefs.

 Remuneration

Nurse most often paid to provide care to client, but may also act in an official nursing volunteer role

 No payment for being in the relationship.

 Length

Time-limited for the length of the client’s need for nursing care.

 May last a lifetime.

 Location

Place defined and limited to where nursing care is provided.

 Place unlimited; often undefined.

 Purpose

Nurse provides care within a defined role and follows an establish plan of care in meeting the client’s needs.

 Pleasure, interest-directed.

 Structure

Nurse provides care/service to client.

 Spontaneous, unstructured.

 Power

Unequal: nurse has more power due to authority, knowledge, influence and access to privileged information about client.

 Relatively equal.

 Responsibility for

Nurse (not client) responsible for establishing and maintaining professional relationship.

Equal responsibility to establish and maintain.

 Preparation for

Nurse requires formal education, knowledge, preparation, orientation and training.

Does not require formal knowledge, preparation, orientation and training.

 Time spent

Nurse gives care within outlined hours of work/volunteerism.

Personal choice for how much time is spent in the relationship.

Adapted from Milgrom, J. (1992). Boundaries in professional relationships: a training manual. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Walk-In Counseling Centre.

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