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Nursing and Allied Health Topics:

Professional Boundaries


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Information for Research Papers, Reports, Essays, Presentations, and Speeches

Research has become a valued part of many nursing school programs with nursing students needing to present a variety of presentations and research papers on a variety of topics. Another somewhat recent development is more demand on students to find a special type of credible information called evidence-based practice information/articles. There are different levels of evidence-based practice information. A variety of sources are listed on the "Nursing and Allied Health Topics" web page to help Nursing and Allied Health students find credible peer-reviewed journal articles, including articles based on evidence-based practice. It seems that a majority of Nursing and Allied Health classes ask the students to cite according the APA Manual SIXTH EDITION, so the articles listed on the various Nursing and Allied Health Topics web pages will be presented according to the the American Psychological Association Manual.

Professional Boundaries

There are a variety of situations where the healthcare professional should be aware of professional boundaries. The following journal articles provide information on how professional boundaries can help the healthcare professional, other members of the healthcare team, and the patient.

Sometimes, some of the following links will not work. IF the links do not connect to the article, then use Google Scholar to type the title of the article in order to connect to the full-text of the article.

The following articles are cited according to APA Manual 6th edition.

  Baca, M. (2011). Professional boundaries and dual relationships in clinical practice.

  The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 7(3): 195-200.

"Professional boundaries are the defining lines that help protect the patient and the nurse practitioner (NP). They continue to be a topic of misunderstanding and under-education. In the professional relationship there is a power differential between the healthcare professional's authority and the patient's vulnerability. This differential creates the need to keep safe professional boundaries with patients. An NP participates in a dual relationship when he or she is both healthcare provider and friend, business associate, family member, or coworker to a patient. This article aspires to offer clarity and guidance in the areas of dual relationships with patients."

  Corbett, S., & Williams, F. (2014) Striking a professional balance: Interactions between nurses and their older patients.

  British Journal of Community Nursing, 19(4): 162-167.

"However it is recognised that there is potential for boundaries to become blurred and in some situations nurses and carers need support to negotiate the divide between appropriate and inappropriate disclosure while maintaining a close relationship with the older adult."

This scholarly journal article is full-text within CINAHL. If you do not have access to CINAHL, then the article can be located at:

If the link does not work, then use Google Scholar to find the title.


  Jeffs, L., Espin, S., Rorabeck, L., Shannon, S.E., Robins, L., Levinson, W., Gallagher, T.H., Glodkova, O., Lingard, L. (2011). Not overstepping professional boundaries:

  The challenging role of nurses in simulated error disclosures. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 26(4), 320-327.

"This article provides findings on the role of the nurse in simulated team-based error disclosures. Triangulation of 3 qualitative data sets revealed that a tension exists for nurses in the error disclosure process as they attempt to balance professional boundaries. Study findings point to multilevel strategies including cultural, structural, and educational approaches to enhancing the key roles that nurses need to play in error disclosure to patients and families."



  Kilpatrick, K., Lavoie-Tremblay, M., Ritchie, J.A., Lamonthe, L., & Doran, D. (2012). Boundary work and the introduction of acute care nurse

  practitioners in healthcare teams. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 68(7): 1504-1515.

"Acute care nurse practitioners enacting their roles in healthcare teams have faced a number of challenges including a mix of positive and negative views of the acute care nurse practitioner role from healthcare team members and acute care nurse practitioner roles crossing the boundaries between the medical and nursing professions. Understanding the process by which the boundaries between professions changed following the introduction of an acute care nurse practitioner role was important since this could affect scope of practice and the team’s ability to give patient care."

This entire research study in this peer-reviewed journal can be located at:


  McGarry, J. (2010). Relationships between nurses and older people within the home: Exploring the boundaries of care.

  International Journal of Older People Nursing, 5(4): 265-273.

“For nurses working within the home there is a clear impetus to clearly define and articulate the full breadth of their role, the nature of relationships
and issues surrounding professional boundary construction within this environment. There is also a need for the core qualities that underpin the receipt of
care within the home and the facets of the nurse–patient relationship valued by older people to be fully recognized and accounted for.”



  Melvin, C.S. (2012).Professional compassion fatigue: what is the true cost of nurses caring for the dying?

  International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 18(12): 606-611.

The full-text of the research study in this peer-reviewed journal is within CINAHL, but you can loate the entire article at:

"Each of the six participants described the need to set professional boundaries in order to maintain their ability to work in end-of-life care."

Page 609 has a heading of “Setting boundaries/healthy coping strategies.”


  Niezen, M.G.H., & Mathijssen, J.J.P. (2014). Reframing professional boundaries in healthcare: A systematic review of facilitators

  and barriers to task reallocation from the domain of medicine to the nursing domain. Health Policy, 117(2): 151-169.

"One of the innovative approaches to dealing with the anticipated shortage of physicians is to reallocate tasks from the professional domain of medicine to the nursing domain. Various (cost-)effectiveness studies demonstrate that nurse practitioners can deliver as high quality care as physicians and can achieve as good outcomes. However, these studies do not examine what factors may facilitate or hinder such task reallocation."

"Nevertheless, debates on workforce changes demonstrate that introducing new roles in healthcare practices is not a straightforward process . For one, workforce changes often put pressure on workforce boundaries."

The entire article can be located for free at:

  Powell, A.E., & Davies, H.T.O. (2012). The struggle to improve patient care in the face of professional boundaries.

  Social Science & Medicine, 75(5): 807-814.

This is an "in-depth interview study" in a scholarly journal.

"Professional boundaries make inter-professional communication, collaboration and teamwork more challenging and can jeopardise the provision of safe, high quality patient care."



  Salhani, D., & Coulter, I. (2009). The politics of interprofessional working and the struggle for professional autonomy in nursing.

  Social Science & Medicine, 68(7), 1221-1228.

"This study of interprofessional work relations in a Canadian mental health team examines how nursing deployed different forms of power in order to alter the mental health division of labour, to gain administrative, organizational and content control over its own work, expand its jurisdictional boundaries by expropriating the work of other professionals, and exclude others from encroaching on its old and newly acquired jurisdictions. This is set against the context of nursing's long-standing professional project to consolidate and expand its professional jurisdiction. Using an ethnographic study of a single interprofessional mental health team in a psychiatric hospital in Canada, the paper attempts to understand the politics and paradoxes involved in realizing nursing's professional project and how the politics of professional autonomy and professional dominance are actually conducted through micro-political struggles. The data demonstrates the effects of the political struggles at the organizational and work process levels, particularly in the forms of collaboration that result. Nurses gained substantial autonomy from medical domination and secured practical dominion over the work of non-medical professionals. New forms of interprofessional collaboration were accomplished through both simultaneous and sequential micro-political struggles with psychiatrists and non-medical professionals, and the formation of political alliances and informal agreements. Nursing solidarity at the elite level and substantial effort by the elite nurses and their committed colleagues to mobilize their less enthused members were fundamental to their success. The nurses deployed political (power) strategies and tactics to organize and reorganize themselves and other professionals on multiple levels (politically, organizationally, ideologically, socially and culturally). This study reveals the complexity and robustness of micro-political dynamics in the constitution of professional and collaborative interprofessional work relations."

This journal article can be located by using Google Scholar. The direct link to the article is:

IF the direct link does not work, then use Google Scholar to find the title.

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