Ethics are both private and administrative. Your personal ethics might be one thing, whereas the integrity you’re required to follow under the guidelines put forth by the American Nursing Association or from the National Paralegal Association, may conflict with your own morality But you have a duty to follow such ethics parameters if you would like to keep your job and avoid being sued for malpractice or violating confidentiality provisions.
While this report focuses on paralegal and health care professionals, a number of these principles are also highly applicable within any situation where you’re managing someone’s private information.
1. Study- if you’re a nurse, study the ANA handbook. If you are a paralegal, then study the NPA’s handbook regarding integrity. Also, study the respective company policies provided to you once hired by a company provided to you at orientation. What you do not know can get you killed!
2. Don’t Gossip: Clients are going to approach you with all kinds of embarrassing stories about their lives. Medical conditions, legal issues, stories of infidelity, infertility, and other gut turning situations will be common place in any field of client relations. You have to handle these situations with care. If you wouldn’t want it to be shared with the public, then its safe to assume that your customer would not either. Practice empathy, and put yourself in their shoes.
3. Be mindful of eavesdropping: When speaking to a client on the phone or in person, be sure that these conversations are done so in a quiet, protected, and private area. If these conversations are accidentally heard by a third party, it could cause adverse consequences.
4. Secure records: Any paperwork concerning company secrets or customer information shouldn’t lay around openly for passerbyers to see. Such files should also be shredded, not crumpled up in a trash bin.
5. Don’t administer actions without permission: Unless you’re directed by a licensed doctor or attorney, nurses and paralegals are not permitted to give a personalized diagnosis, legal advice, or administer therapy. Nurses and Paralegals must also refrain from taking action when the client doesn’t consent. Paralegals and nurses are “foot-soldiers”. We are to operate mostly by direct command, and rarely behave independently, and even if we do, we’re highly monitored.
6. Prevent the media: Addressing the media in regards to a customer or the company that you work for without authorization is a significant NO-NO.
7. Don’t be an accomplice: If you see your supervising Doctor or lawyer doing something highly unethical or illegal, you have the right to talk and file a report with the authorities. Don’t become an accomplice to illegal action.
8. Think twice before becoming a rouge: Getting a whistleblower or acting on your own because it”feels right”, could force you to go down in history as a courageous hero and save lives, however, it won’t be without consequences. Acting beyond your assigned job, even if it saves a life may still cost you your job or open up you for a malpractice lawsuit or legal sanctions. Before you try to become the next Edward Snowden, remember, there’ll be consequences.
9. Stay up to date: Ethics guidelines are subject to change. Most physicians and paralegals are required or encouraged to attend furthering education classes or”refresher courses”. These could serve you well so you don’t fall out of the loop for current industry standards.
10. Pledge your loyalty to your client: Your job is to be an advocate for the client and an assistant to your superior. Embrace this role fully! If you believe an alternative remedy is in order, express this to your supervising Doctor or Attorney. Do this away from the customer in order to protect the honor of your supervisor as to not undermine him. Also, do not conspire or speak with any external forces who may work against the interests of your customer and/or employer. You’re being paid for such loyalty. Any actions you take which could be interpreted as being”disloyal” to either the client or your employer, could lead to termination or a lawsuit.
11. If you can’t fathom defending a murderer or thief, you may want to steer clear of criminal law and try bankruptcy law instead. You can also request to be removed from specific cases or refuse to work with specific customers who make you feel uncomfortable. However, irrespective of how hard you try to manage your career, you will ultimately be forced to take actions that go against your personal beliefs. It is the nature of any company and something all workers must learn how to accept. Do what you can to minimize such conditions but also learn how to warrant such activities if absolutely necessary. Those who don’t rationalize their tasks will fall prey to alcoholism and other unhealthy coping methods if they do not learn how to deal naturally. Legal and medical professionals will benefit greatly from having a support system in friends and family.
The doctrine and administrative guidelines that govern the idea of”integrity” can get very complicated. If you are unsure about whether you may be violating your company’s standards of ethics, it never hurts to ask!