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Sexual Boundary Violations in Correctional Nursing: It Could Happen to You

Her research into this concept in Canada is fascinating and has much for us to apply in our own practice settings. Here are my notes and thoughts from her session.

Cindy interviewed seven registered nurses working in secure settings who had observed or experienced sexual boundary violations in their nursing practice. Spending a lot of time with a patient, such as can happen in correctional settings, can make this a hotbed for potential problems.

What does it mean to cross the line? She identified this as behaving in a way that is socially unacceptable or behaving in a disreputable or inappropriate manner. In professional practice, this can mean nurses who are professionally irresponsible; having crossed the bounds of an appropriate nurse-patient relationship to a romantic or sexual relationship. When has a nurse-patient relationship crossed the line? Peternelj-Taylor’s research revealed these indicators:
  • Starting to look forward to seeing that person the next day.
  • Keeping secrets in the relationship
  • Not allowing others into the relationship
  • Exchanging messages
Relationship should always be for the benefit of the patient, not for self-gratification or personal gain. Yet, therapeutic relationship can be very intimate and confusing to the patient.  In fact, it is not uncommon for a patient to misinterpret therapy. For example, how would you respond to a patient who says, “I want to kiss you?” How would you respond in a way that would realign the relationship and not cause the patient to withdraw from therapy? Our inmate-patients often misinterpret  interactions with nurses; both words and gestures.

Nurses have an ethical responsibility to maintain the therapeutic environment no matter the actions of the patient.  Caution is needed. We can lose sight of professional roles and responsibilities in the midst of a situation and can be blindsided. Therefore, we have responsibility to our peers to point out when we see potential boundary violations.

Questions to ask in a potential improper nurse-patient relationship:
  • Would this relationship really work out in the real world?
  • Would I say or do this in front of my peers or my supervisor?
  • Am I keeping secrets or not talking to my peer group about my conversations or actions with this patient?
Peternilj-Taylor’s research also suggests that managers can reduce sexual boundary violations. One way is to investigate any indication of improper relationship in the medical unit. Training, especially the use of case vignettes, can help nurses to overcome temptation and develop skills in responding to potential violation opportunities.

Do you think sexual boundary violations are of greater potential in correctional nursing practice? Share your opinions and experiences in the comments section of this post.

Photo Credit: © Oleksandr Moroz – Fotolia.com


This post originally appeared in CorrectionalNurse.Net

Guest post by Dr. Lorry Schoenly nurse author and educator specializing in the field of correctional health care. She has written 6 continuing education courses especially for the Correctional Healthcare Campus.

Correctional Healthcare Processes
Safety in the Correctional Setting
The Correctional Healthcare Patient and Environment
Medication Administration in the Correctional Setting
Risk and Documentation in the Correctional Setting
Special Issues in Corrections

You may see all of the online continuing education offered at the Correctional Healthcare Campus by clicking View Entire Catalog.

You may purchase the collection of Correctional Courses in a cost saving package: Correctional Healthcare Nurse Continuing Education Package


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Posted: 3/21/2016 8:40:32 PM
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