The ethical expectations of businesses and professionals have grown dramatically over the past decade. Increasingly, customers, clients and employees are deliberately seeking out those who set standards for the way they conduct business and provide services, how they resolve problems, and how they pledge to treat their valued partners at every level.
Engineering, journalism and public relations, religious organizations and many other professions have professional ethics. The home care industry is among them. The NAHC Code of Ethics was adopted by the Board of Directors in 1982. Quoting from the Code’s Preamble, “It serves as a statement to the general public that the Association and its individual members stand for integrity and the highest ethical standards. This Code of Ethics serves to inform members and the general public as to what are acceptable guidelines for ethical conduct for home care agencies and their employees.”
Why have a Code of Ethics?
- To define accepted/acceptable behaviors
- To promote high standards of practice
- To provide a benchmark for members to use for self evaluation
- To establish a framework for professional behavior and responsibilities
- As a vehicle for occupational identity
- As a mark of occupational maturity
These are not just desirable behaviors, they make good business sense. Whether or not people should practice high standards and conduct regular self-evaluation as the right thing to do, businesses prosper when these behaviors are practiced on a routine basis.
The NAHC Code of Ethics includes sections governing the following areas: Patient Rights and Responsibilities, Relationships to Other Provider Agencies, Responsibility to NAHC, Fiscal Responsibilities, Marketing and Public Relations, Personnel, Legislative, and the Hearing Process. It has served as a model for many other similar state organizations.
Ethical codes or rules must never go against laws, but rather coordinate with them, as in the case of medical record confidentiality under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
Business or professional ethics are mutually beneficial to all of us involved in a profession such as home care. People in a profession don’t want to condone bad, dishonest or irresponsible behavior if it does occur by someone in our field. We are no exception. By setting out expected behaviors in the form of professional ethics, we in NAHC work together to try to uphold a good reputation, which benefits all of us as members.
A code of ethics has a secondary effect that is important not to overlook. A mutually shared code of ethics enhances the sense of community among members, the pride of belonging to a group with common values and a common mission.
This may seem intangible, but it adds greatly to a sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction, which is important for all professionals. It boost employee excellence and retention.
In general, professional ethics always include upholding honesty and respect in the profession over personal needs, conflicts or biases. Respect and honesty are the two main components of professional ethics. All employees are expected to represent a business ethically. This is crucial. No matter whose name is on the door, in large part our employees are the business.
It should be noted that people within each profession are expected to be respectful and honest in their personal dealings as well. A conflict of interest situation may occur when an individual tries to accomplish personal goals as a result of being in a certain profession. For example, a politician who uses government resources to get work done on his personal home could be seen as being involved in a conflict of interest.
The very exercise of developing a code is in itself worthwhile. It forces a group of people to examine their mission, their goals and objectives, and their important obligations both internally and externally, as a group and as individuals.
For those truly committed to professional ethics, training is critical. For example, home care aides and managers must be aware and implement many rules based on ethics regarding client confidentiality. It is both unethical and unlawful to discuss a client’s personal records with others who are not involved in the care of the individual.
Codes of ethics may seem altruistic, but they are also beneficial in a practical way. They help make our relationships mutually pleasant and productive. They help set standards that generate positive relationships through trust and respect, business growth, and long-term success. We must never forget that we can do well by doing good.