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Physical therapists tend to be "people people" whose hands-on approach to problem-solving is both literal and figurative. PTs spend more time with their patients than do professionals in many other health care fields. They form close care partnerships with those they serve. But while PTs are taught about the importance of observing and maintaining interpersonal boundaries from the time they are students, practical guidance can be lacking.

It's hardly surprising, then, that PTs can be caught off-guard when boundaries shift and motives seem unclear. Consider the following scenario.


Karen has been practicing for about a year at Oak Ridge Physical Therapy, the clinic at which she'd completed her final clinical assignment as a PT student. She'd jumped at the opportunity when owner Jim offered her the job, because of the practice's strong patient-centered focus. Oak Ridge's motto is "Professionalism with a personal touch." The clinic routinely receives glowing reviews on social media from current and former patients.

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