“I got to thinking, Hey, I’m going to take full advantage of my health now — I’m going to do a triathlon,” he said.And on the surface, it seems like such an ideal story.
To raise the stakes, he decided to challenge Stewart, who was not a likely triathlete, either. As a doctor who performs 400 heart surgeries a year, each about six hours long, Stewart did not have much spare time to spend at the gym. His usual dinner, he said, was pizza or Taco Bell.
But he accepted O’Keeffe’s challenge, even if he had doubts.
But in reality, blurring the divide between doctor and patient can present considerable problems, too. Psychoanalysts have long understood this problem; they call it countertransference. Maintaining boundaries in our relationships with patients maintains one's ability to remain objective while assessing conditions and while providing recommendations for appropriate therapies. Further, doctor-patient boundaries avoid the potential for a perception of favoritism between patients. For instance, what might other patients that are not invited into the cozy comfort of their doctor's personal life perceive?
This is not to say it is not important to develop professional relationships built on trust with patients. But trust requires us to sometimes recommend things patients might not want to hear if we feel it's in their best interest. This might be harder to do if a relationship becomes enmeshed. Our job is not to be people's friends, but their doctors - and maintaining a healthy divide between professional and social "friends" can be very difficult at times.
So if people wonder why I don't "friend" them on Facebook, it's not because I don't like them. On the contrary, it's because I must respect the delicate boundary that must be maintained between a doctor and patient in order to maintain our professional relationship.