Background and objectives: Professional boundaries help to establish and maintain the foundation of the doctor-patient relationship. Our objective was to measure physicians' level of awareness in recognizing a boundary limit, their intention to change their behavior regarding boundaries, and their self-reported changes in behavior after participation in an educational workshop, "The Right Distance."
Methods: This longitudinal study used questionnaires to measure the level of awareness of the participants in recognizing boundary limits before and after the workshop and to measure their intention to change their behavior and self-reported behavior changes immediately after the workshop and 6 months later.
Results: Before the workshop, the level of awareness in recognizing the boundary limits was 3.9 on a 5.0 point scale in which 5.0 represented the highest level of awareness, and immediately after the workshop it was 4.2/5.0. Female physicians were more aware of these issues. Following the workshop, 51% of participants indicated an intention to change their behavior. On the 6-month follow-up questionnaire, 138 physicians (60%) answered that they had not changed their behavior, and 92 physicians (40%) answered that they had modified their behavior by changing their attitude toward their personal and professional life and toward gifts and gratuities. When the post-workshop and the 6-month follow-up questionnaires were matched, 34 of 57 (60%) participants who stated their intention to change did in fact change their behavior regarding the "right distance."
Conclusions: Boundary issues and level of awareness can be effectively taught in a continuing medical education workshop.