Patient Connections: Sharing Your Authentic Self While Maintaining Boundaries (Podcast)

Managing this ‘balancing act’ and much more

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One of the most important soft skills for nurses is the ability to create connections with patients. But it’s a balancing act that requires authenticity and compassion while maintaining boundaries.

As Executive Chief Nursing Officer of Cleveland Clinic Health System, Meredith Foxx, MSN, MBA, APRN, NEA-BC, is removed from the bedside, but she still recalls the connections she made while working in pediatric oncology.

“It’s made me into the nurse, the person that I am,” she says. “I value those connections, and I can reflect on them to ensure that connections for the future with any patients and families bring out the best in me and is most beneficial for them.”

In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse Essentials podcast, Foxx discusses how nurses can connect with the patients they care for. She shares:

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  • Stories of her time as a clinical nurse and how she approached building connections with patients
  • Tips for new nurses on interacting with patients and their families
  • Advice for setting boundaries to maintain a professional relationship
  • The importance of making connections that are patient-focused rather than self-centered

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short, edited excerpt. Check out more Nurse Essential episodes at or wherever you get your podcasts.

Podcast excerpt

Podcast host Carol Pehotsky, DNP, RN, NEA-BC: How do you set some of those boundaries in a way that’s still focused on the patient and compassionate but really maintains that professional relationship?

Foxx: So, it’s easy to get pretty black or white here. You know, we have HIPAA. We have rules and regulations and policies we have to follow. We know what we should and shouldn’t be sharing in terms of what patients’ rights are. For example, they are entitled to know our full names. I’ve talked with many nurses and different individuals who take care of patients who have said sometimes that feels intrusive to them in terms of the situation.

And then you flip to the internet, social media and exchanging information, and that’s really moving into an unauthorized boundary. We should not be exchanging personal information and phone numbers. The whole becoming friends on social media just is not really in the nature of a boundary of a patient-to-nurse relationship. But that’s tough because all of a sudden you might be having to put up some firm boundaries with a patient or their family members, and they don’t understand why you’re doing that. It can be perceived to them as ‘Meredith doesn’t want to be friends with me’ or ‘Have we not had a connection? I thought we had a connection?’

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Or, you know, in the nature of just where people work and live, you find out you have mutual connections through schools or church or social activities, and you have to respect those boundaries.

But I think keeping it as clean as you can – just say, you know, these are the expectations of us as professionals and not making it about you and the person. But it’s easier said than done, for sure. They want to talk about stuff or find something you have in common. And I think it’s trying to find those things that are in common, that allow for that relationship and that authenticity, but it’s not intrusive or invasive.