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How to Create Boundaries with Patients

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

Boundaries matter in every area of life. I am big on boundaries and believe the patient-provider relationship must have boundaries for the best outcomes. I believe that setting expectations and having boundaries help reduce burnout and force the patient to be accountable for themselves.

I have found that I am much more satisfied with my work environment when expectations are clear. Working in occupational medicine and in urgent care, I have short-term relationships with patients. In either circumstance, there are things I am responsible for as a provider, and there are things that only the patient can do. Setting boundaries and stating expectations can be challenging. If you have a personality where you don’t want to seem confrontational, setting boundaries can seem scary. If you have a strong personality, you do not want to come off confrontational. I propose looking at it from a different perspective and seeing it as professional self-care.

When expectations are managed, relationships are healthier. It is important to have boundaries and expectations in every relationship you have, whether personal or professional. Here are 3 ways to set patient-provider expectations.

  1. Let the patient know what your role is in their life and healthcare. Be sincere in voicing how you will help them reach their health goals, find answers within your scope and refer if necessary. Ensure them you are an open door for questions and will answer in the best of your ability within a timely manner. Verbalize that you will always respect them and act in their best interest.

  2. Ensure ancillary staff are aware of your general patient expectations and boundaries, that way, everyone is on the same page. For example, the staff I work with are very aware that we do not tolerate any form of disrespect from patients towards staff. They also know I do not kowtow or do things “just because.” Any treatment prescribed will be medically indicated

  3. Stand firm on your boundaries. Consistency is key. Be fair in your expectations, but also be firm.

  4. Be respectful. Maybe this should be moved up to number one. You will receive what you give.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr. Jackie the PA

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