As a fellow undergraduate student working toward bigger and better things, I know what you might think. “Why should I care about health care ethics now, with dozens of deadlines looming at any given time?” After all, you took three credit hours of health care ethics. You’re good, right? There’ll be time for this later.
When exactly will you have time to educate yourself on ASHA’s Code of Ethics? Think about how overworked and hectic you feel today. Now imagine how you’ll feel in graduate school while juggling class and clinical experience.
OK—take a deep breath. This post isn’t meant to send you spiraling into anxiety. Rather, I hope to give you a leg up for graduate school and the professional world beyond, because believe it or not, it’s just around the corner.
Audiologists and speech-language pathologists working in all settings use ASHA’s Code of Ethics to determine ethical behavior and standards for numerous situations. The document also outlines circumstances in which a communication sciences and disorders professional might lose certification. So, it’s important to check it out. Any ASHA-certified audiologist or SLP must adhere to the code. In addition, we’re all required to notify the Board of Ethics if we think someone violates the code. In other words, we must avoid our own ethics breaches and recognize them in others.
Before I come off as a holier-than-thou stranger adding to your ever-growing to-do list, I’ll admit to not knowing much about the code myself at this point last year. I skimmed what I needed for class and participated in my health care ethics class. I assumed this meant I understood the concepts well enough. When I heard about ASHA’s Student Ethics Essay Award (SEEA) contest, I decided to give it a shot as a chance to exercise my writing skills and brush up on some ethics. No big deal, right?
Yes … and no. What began as a fun activity quickly turned into a realization about how ill-prepared I was for any ethical issues that might arise in my future. And even small dilemmas can have serious consequences: “Individuals found in violation of the Code can face public censure and withholding or suspension of certification.” The Board of Ethics will dole out sanctions it feels suit the violation. Therefore, get to know our Code of Ethics. Not internalizing the details might mean the difference between certification and unemployment.
But why does this matter to me? I think as undergraduate students, we often feel far-removed from the professional world. But we’re lucky to study a profession requiring pre-professionals to obtain plenty of observation and field experience. So, while we are far from practicing experts, any time we’re present in a clinical setting, we must behave ethically by ASHA’s standards.
What is ethical behavior? Why do we need some universal rulebook to do the right thing?
Here is an important distinction to make: An ethical action might not equal a moral action. Morals are subjective and unique to each individual, so we can’t rely on personal morals to ensure appropriate behavior. A code of ethics is an objective method of ensuring consistently appropriate behavior benefiting clients and practitioners alike.
If, like me, you find yourself questioning your ethical competency, check out ASHA’s SEEA guidelines. Entering means you get to brainstorm your own ethical dilemmas and examine ways they might or might not violate the Code of Ethics. You’ll also gain a more in-depth understanding about practical application. Yes, you get prizes, too—like free entry to convention and a national NSSLHA membership! You can already enter for the 2017 awards.
Whether or not you decide to give SEEA a shot, take a few minutes to learn more on ASHA’s Code of Ethics today. Make time for ethical considerations beyond what your professors demand, because ethical dilemmas in the field are a certainty. Your professional life is closer than you realize—so start preparing for whatever might come your way—ethically at least.
Julia Burroughs is an undergraduate student at University of Cincinnati. She was a 2016 ASHA Student Ethics Essay winner with her essay “Continuous Care in an Ever-Changing Field: Client Abandonment.”