shaking hands. Patients should therefore be treated as individuals and our interactions measured accordingly.

AMONG COLLEAGUES Successful dental practices depend on colleagues working closely together. We rely on each other when navigating our day list and looking after patients. “Getting on” is crucial to this working relationship and friendships often develop. However, it is still important to maintain a professional working relationship. An increasingly common cause for GDC investigations is a business or employment dispute which has turned particularly sour. One dentist or dental care professional complains about the other to the GDC and, frequently, both or multiple professionals end up being drawn into the investigation. In a similar way, an inappropriate relationship between colleagues can end up being aired at a regulatory hearing. Some cases may involve a dentist providing treatment to a colleague; this is not precluded but should be approached with caution. In such situations, clinical judgment may become too subjective, which means we might not be treating a colleague as we would other patients. We still need to fully assess the patient, reach a diagnosis, give treatment options, gain valid consent, document everything in the clinical notes and provide treatment which is in their best interests. Knowing the patient in a professional context

means we may not be as rigorous in following usual routines and, in such cases, it may be sensible for the colleague to seek treatment elsewhere.

SOCIAL MEDIA Social media is now almost inescapable, infiltrating most of our lives. Personal information can enter the public domain and leave an indelible mark on a dentist’s professional reputation. GMC guidance on Maintaining a professional boundary between you and your patient states: “Social media can blur the boundaries between a doctor’s personal and professional lives and may change the relationship between a doctor and patient”. GDC guidance similarly states that “when using social media, you must maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationships you have with patients and other members of the dental team”, and that social media has “blurred the boundaries between public and private life, and your online image can impact on your professional life”.3 A dentist should therefore always give very careful consideration to anything they choose to post on a public or private online forum. Social media might be disclosed during the course of a GDC hearing as evidence relating to an inappropriate interaction with either a patient or a colleague. Boundaries can also become blurred when personal telephone numbers or websites are used to communicate with patients. Patients should always be asked to communicate through practice portals. The digital age has created a more fluid environment for

social exchange in general. We must therefore pay careful attention in order to manage the boundaries between our personal and professional selves, and in doing so avoid blurring those boundaries.

Sarah Harford is a dental adviser at MDDUS

REFERENCES 1 Doel Mark, et al. 2010 Professional boundaries: crossing a line or entering the shadows? British Journal of Social work 40 (6): 1866-1889 2 General Dental Council 2013 Standards for the dental team 3 General Dental Council 2016 Guidance on using social media


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