Dental professionals are being advised to maintain clear professional boundaries to avoid being the target of patient’s Valentine’s advances.
Valentine’s Day may prompt someone with amorous feelings for a dental professional to take things a stage further, perhaps sending a gift, contacting them via Facebook or Twitter, or making a tentative advance during an appointment.
The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has issued the following tips to help dental professionals avoid unwanted attention this Valentine’s Day or during the rest of the year:
- Avoid sharing personal information during consultations or online
- Do not accept friendship requests from patients on Facebook
- If a patient makes amorous advances, log all contact with them, including inappropriate behaviour and any gifts received
- Tell the patient politely but firmly that their advances are unwelcome and that you are unable to accept any gifts or pursue any kind of personal relationship with them
- Never be left alone with the patient. Ensure there is another member of staff with you throughout the time you are with the patient
- Seek support from colleagues, while always respecting patient confidentiality
- Consider asking whether a practice colleague can take over the patient’s care. However, bear in mind you may still be obliged to treat the patient in an emergency.
Susan N'Jie, DDU dento-legal adviser, said: ‘The best way to avoid becoming the object of a patient’s inappropriate affections is to maintain clear professional boundaries with patients and be wary of sharing personal information during appointments.
‘If the dental professional has continuing concerns after following our tips however, he or she should seek advice from their dental defence organisation as in some circumstances, it may be necessary to contact the police.’
In rare cases, matters may take a menacing turn with dental professionals becoming a victim of stalking, harassment or a vexatious complaint.
If you feel that your safety or that of others may be threatened by the patient’s behaviour, you might decide to involve the police. However, you should not divulge any confidential clinical details about the patient without the patient’s consent, unless this would be justifiable in the public interest.