Are you Crossing the Line?

Crossing the Line?

I have just returned from Adelaide where Colleen and I ran a one-day workshop, “Crossing the Line”, on Professional Boundaries as part of the Nurses for Nurses Conference held there 14th & 15th March. Those who have been to one of our boundary workshops will know that this is an area of professional passion for me. I’m always delighted to meet with a group of participants and share what I have learned, and also to hear their professional stories of boundary intrigue and transgression.

As part of my introduction to the boundary workshops, I share with the group that the content could easily fill four or five days training. In fact, at a recent workshop one participant suggested a five day residential and I am warming up to that idea for 2014.

Generally by lunch time on day one, participants express to me,

I can see how this could be five days long, I did not previously appreciate the complexities of professional boundaries.

This gladdens my professional heart to see so early on in the workshop that participants are delighting in their understanding of the depth of knowledge required to maintain safe boundaries in the clinical arena.

In professional boundary work I have done with individuals and groups I have become increasingly aware of the relevance of boundaries in order to maintain one’s own well-being (and that of the client). With knowledge and skills gained through participation in our workshops and through robust and challenging discussions, action and role plays, individuals inform us later,

I can go to work now, set limits, enjoy the day, feel satisfaction with what I have done, and enjoy being with my family.

For some this awakening has moved them from a state of negativity about their work to enjoying the work they do. For others, its a relief to learn that its okay to say ‘no’, to set limits and that indeed, in terms of professional ethics, it can be a requirement of the professional role.

I believe that an integral missing link to boundary maintenance is having a good understanding about attachment theory. I believe attachment theory offers an insightful lens through which to understand, create and maintain boundaries. Just as clients may become attached to professionals, I believe that professionals can also become too attached to clients. This opens up both parties (and potentially their respective families) to ab area of professional investigation that many would never have envisaged. Attachment theory and boundaries are a realm that I will write more about in future blog posts, so stay tuned.

To me, boundaries encompass all that it is to be human and a professional. I like a quote by Schimelpfening (2007),

Boundaries are the emotional and physical space that we place between ourselves and others. Setting proper boundaries is important to our mental health. When appropriate boundaries are not set, we run the risk of becoming either too detached from or too dependent upon others.

As always, I welcome conversation and comments from you about my blog posts.


Ref: Schimelpfening, N. (2007). Accessed http://

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