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Personal–professional boundary issues in the satisfaction of rural clinicians recruited from within the community: Findings from an exploratory study


Dr Judy Gillespie, School of Social Work, 3333 University Way, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada V1V 1V7. E-mail:


Objective: The objective of this paper is to highlight, from within a broad study of recruitment/retention, findings that identify personal–professional boundaries as key challenges for rural child and youth mental health clinicians recruited from within the community.

Design: Two mixed methods online questionnaires followed by semistructured telephone interviews with a small subset of respondents were administered to clinicians, team leaders, supervisors and managers whose practice responsibilities encompass rural settings in three regions of British Columbia, Canada.

Participants: Forty-four clinicians and 27 team leaders/managers participated in the survey while eight clinicians and one team leader/manager participated in the semistructured interviews. Half the clinician respondents were recruited from within the community. Of those recruited from outside the community, half had prior experience living or working in a rural community.

Main outcome measures: Levels of satisfaction with lifestyle, practice and preparation for practice were compared across categories of respondents identified earlier. Open-ended comments were coded by theme and also compared across categories of respondents.

Results: While expressing their higher levels of satisfaction with rural lifestyle and professional practice, clinicians recruited from within rural communities report significant initial and ongoing stress related to personal–professional boundaries and dual relationships. They also report lower levels of satisfaction with orientation and preparation for practice relevant to dealing with these stressors.

Conclusion: Prior attachment to rural communities, increasingly viewed as an effective recruitment and retention strategy, requires better preparation and ongoing supports to enable practitioners to deal with dual relationships and the personal–professional boundary issues that are a direct consequence of their attachments.