Nurses and healthcare professionals are metaphorically and literally at the heart of healthcare. Working with patients from check-in to discharge, nurses often develop emotional bonds with these individuals. Is it bad practice to form attachments with patients? Does it cloud judgement or hinder productivity? Though distinguishing when to be emotionally available and detached can sometimes be difficult, a balance between empathy and professionalism is vital for both healthcare providers and patients!
While it is human nature to bond with your patients by being at their beck and call day and night, sometimes patient improvements and set-backs can affect your professional performance. Diana Price agrees, “Dealing with emotional attachment is a skill that can’t be taught in nursing school. It’s one of those things you have to learn on-the-job and fine tune as you go along.” Setting boundaries between you and your patients doesn’t mean you have to maintain a strict professional distance—it’s okay to genuinely care for your patients, but step away when the care is done. The same applies to everyday productivity in many areas of life. Sharing or giving too much or too little, and even providing too much attention can negatively impact both parties.
In providing care, we should look for signs that we may be stepping beyond healthy boundaries. Kim Holland, writing about Professional Boundaries, suggests some examples:
- You share personal problems or aspects of your intimate life with patients
- You keep secrets with patients—this could negatively affect their recovery
- You have received gifts from your patients
- You fail to set limits with your patients
- You spend duty time with patients
- You give patients personal contact information or money
…check out the full article and list to pin point if you are creating unhealthy boundaries.
Favorite appreciates your care and commitment for every patient, every shift, every day, but we encourage well-balanced relationships! Whether you are your patients’ biggest cheerleader, their shoulder to lean on when it seems their world is crashing down around them, or simply their companion—be empathetic, show compassion, and take care of your patients. But never forget to take care of yourself, and what needs to be done in the most professional fashion!
Price, Diana, Dealing with Emotional Attachment in Nursing. Fortis.edu, 2014: http://bit.ly/1dxejH0
Holland, Kim, Professional Boundaries in Nursing. NurseTogether.com, 2012: http://bit.ly/1B302No