Doctor dating ex patient

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Because relationships morph with time, it's often difficult to define starting and stopping points. Strangely, determining when the professional physician/patient relationship is over can be similarly murky.

Does a coincidental meeting at a cocktail party where you engage in a personal conversation constitute the beginning of a relationship? Many such relationships simply atrophy with inattention. For many physicians, "once a patient/doctor relationship, always a patient/doctor relationship," says Dr. "I think that's what sits behind the 68% of 'No/Never' responses." As one podiatrist notes, "I have had patients return to my practice after 5 or 10 years, so they never stopped being patients really." Others insist there has to be some logical point of demarcation between current and former patients.

"The critical issue is the change from being a patient," writes a general surgeon. It is the termination of the doctor/patient relationship that is essential." A family practice physician expresses a similar sentiment: "I don't know what the magic number of months is that should pass after the doctor/patient relationship has ended. "It's to promote thoughtful, reasoned decision-making. It's not personal risk management." Consequently, whereas one physician might harmoniously pursue a relationship with a former patient, another physician may not be so lucky.

But it must be ended beyond all doubt, for a substantial period of time, before a romantic or sexual relationship can begin." Although the ethics of a relationship may be situational, a wrong decision could work against you if any court-related issues subsequently arise. If the relationship doesn't work out the way the patient wished, he or she could bring charges against the physician -- even if it was the patient who initiated the relationship -- and that can present big problems for the physician.

"Be aware of how you portray yourself to patients" Managing the relationship with patients also means respecting their right to confidentiality and maintaining professional boundaries.

While doctors are rightly expected to show compassion and empathy when treating patients, it is undoubtedly a challenge to show this human face without blurring the boundary between professional and personal relationships.

Your best protection is to know yourself: become adept at identifying and monitoring your feelings towards your patients (whether these are negative or positive).

Being aware of professional boundaries also extends to doctors’ use of social media.

"Managing the relationship with patients also means respecting their right to confidentiality and maintaining professional boundaries" MPS has written extensively on the importance of good communication, partly due to the oft-quoted fact that 70% of litigation in healthcare is related to poor communication.Read the article, Good communication: why it's worth it, Sessional GP, Issue 1, October 2009.Another aspect of good communication is being honest and open when things go wrong.Others insisted the difference between a current patient and a former one -- at least when it comes to romance -- depends on a formal letter terminating the professional relationship.Still others noted that a shift in role is more important than the time frame in which that shift occurs.

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