Sexual boundaries between physiotherapists and patients are not perceived clearly: an observational study

I. Cooper, Susan Jenkins

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    18 Citations (Scopus)
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    QUESTION: What are the sexual boundaries between physiotherapists and their patients? and do they differ between males and females? DESIGN: Observational study using a postal questionnaire. PARTICIPANTS: 2248 physiotherapists registered with the Physiotherapist's Registration Board of Western Australia. OUTCOME MEASURES: Respondents were asked to state: i) their perception of the behaviour of a hypothetical physiotherapist in six vignettes highlighting professional sexual boundaries; ii) the incidence of sexual attraction between themselves and their patients, and iii) the course(s) of action they would take in a situation of alleged sexual misconduct between a physiotherapist colleague and a patient. RESULTS: A response rate of 42% (939 responses, 706 females) was achieved. The majority of respondents (= 80%) thought the physiotherapist's behaviour to be wrong in four of the six vignettes; 65% of respondents thought it acceptable for a physiotherapist who provides physiotherapy services to a rugby team to go on a date with a team member; 74% of males and 41% females (p > 0.001) reported having felt sexually attracted to a patient; respondents were aware of a colleague who had dated a patient (33%) or ex-patient (60%). When presented with a vignette describing alleged sexual misconduct, 83% of respondents stated they would advise the patient to make a written complaint to the appropriate disciplinary body. Less than 20% stated that they would personally report their colleague to the Physiotherapists' Registration Board (19%) or the Australian Physiotherapy Association National Professional Standards Panel (15%). CONCLUSION: The variation in responses to the vignettes, the reported incidence of sexual attraction and dating of patients, and apparent confusion with regard to the complaints process identifies the need for education of the physiotherapy profession in Australia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)275-279
    JournalThe Australian Journal of Physiotherapy
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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