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Med Educ. 2003 Nov;37(11):1017-9.

Medical students' learning needs about setting and maintaining social and sexual boundaries: a report.

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School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.



Despite increasing awareness of the potentially harmful consequences of social and sexual relationships between doctors and patients, little assessment has been made of the learning needs of medical students for setting and maintaining social and sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship.


To assess the learning needs of students with regard to issues concerning the setting of professional boundaries.


The study used a 4-part questionnaire, designed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data from medical students in all 6 years of the medical curriculum at 1 Australian university.


A total of 293 students participated (94.5% response rate). The majority of students were ambivalent about the relationship between social and sexual boundary violations and sexual misconduct. A total of 21% of students said that sexual contact with patients might not be inappropriate. Short answers to a series of vignettes demonstrated conservatism on the part of students when faced with dilemmas. Most (87.4%) of the student population surveyed stated that insufficient teaching time had been given to issues concerning social and sexual boundaries.


If medical schools shun teaching about the violation of social and sexual boundaries in doctor-patient relationships, sexual predators will continue to graduate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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