Virtual Professional Boundaries

2020 has seen a radical shift in how preceptors see patients and teach learners. From limited patient contact to full telemedicine visits, learners’ involvement with patients looks much different today than it did in 2019. However, many of the principles of good teaching still apply, including giving quality feedback, evaluating learner understanding, and role modeling professional boundaries.  

It is important to continue role modeling professional boundaries, which involves demonstrating behaviors through actions, speech, and gestures, even through a screen or over the telephone. And while these behaviors may be consciously observed by the learner, be sure to help them identify positive boundaries as you set them. Your learners should be able to identify their own professional boundaries within a variety of encounters, whether when working with patients, clinic staff, yourself, or fellow learners.

Establish a clinical culture that encourages learners to be comfortable discussing sensitive subjects around the topic of professional boundaries. Practice active and reflective listening, and let your learners know when you are doing so. You can also share your own ethical standards, based on your experience and insight.

More About Professionalism 

Visit the Professionalism section for more information about professional boundaries, as well as physician well-being and conflict management.