Ethics are both personal and administrative. Your personal ethics might be one thing, whereas the ethics you’re required to follow under the guidelines set forth by the American Nursing Association or by the National Paralegal Association, may conflict with your own morality But you have a duty to follow these integrity parameters if you want to keep your work and avoid being sued for malpractice or violating confidentiality provisions.
While this article focuses on paralegal and health care professionals, a number of these principles are also highly relevant within any situation where you’re handling someone’s private information.
1. Study- if you’re a nurse, then study the ANA handbook. If you’re a paralegal, then study the NPA’s guide regarding ethics. Also, study the individual company policies offered to you once hired by a business provided to you at orientation. What you do not know can get you killed!
2. Do not Gossip: Clients will approach you with all kinds of embarrassing stories about their lives. Medical conditions, legal issues, stories of adultery, infertility, and other stomach turning scenarios will be common place in any area of client relations. You must handle these situations with care. If you wouldn’t want it to be shared with the general public, then its safe to assume that your customer would not either. Practice compassion, and put yourself in their shoes.
3. Be mindful of eavesdropping: When speaking to a customer on the phone or in person, be sure these conversations are done so in a quiet, protected, and private place. If these conversations are inadvertently heard by a third party, it may cause adverse consequences.
4. Secure records: Any paperwork concerning company secrets or client information should not lay around openly for passerbyers to see. Such documents should also be shredded, not crumpled up in a trash bin. Don’t make their jobs easier by mishandling documents.
5. Don’t administer actions without permission: Unless you are directed by a qualified physician or lawyer, nurses and paralegals are not permitted to provide a personalized diagnosis, legal advice, or administer therapy. Nurses and Paralegals must also refrain from taking action once the client does not consent. We are to operate mostly by direct command, and rarely act independently, and even if we do, we’re highly monitored.
6. Avoid the media: Addressing the media about a customer or the organization that you work for without authorization is a big NO-NO. You run the risk of defamation, releasing business trade-secrets, and other legal consequences.
7. Don’t be an accomplice: If you visit that your supervising Doctor or attorney doing something highly illegal or unethical, you have the right to speak up and file a report with the police. Do not become an accomplice to illegal activity.
8. Think twice before getting a rouge: Becoming a whistleblower or acting on your own because it”feels right”, could make you go down in history as a courageous hero and save lives, but it will not be without consequences. Acting outside of your assigned job, even if it saves a life could 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 invited to attend furthering education classes or”refresher courses”.
10. Pledge your loyalty to your customer: Your job is to be an advocate for your client and an assistant to your superior. Embrace this role fully! If you think an alternative remedy is in order, express this to your supervising Doctor or Attorney. Do this away from the client to be able to protect the honor of your boss as not to undermine him. In addition, do not conspire or speak with any external forces who might work against the interests of your client and/or employer. You’re being paid for such devotion. Any actions you take which could be interpreted as being”disloyal” to the customer or your employer, could result in termination or a lawsuit.
11. If you cannot fathom defending a murderer or thief, you may want to steer clear of criminal law and try bankruptcy law instead. You can also ask to be removed from certain cases or refuse to work with certain customers who make you feel uncomfortable. However, irrespective of how hard you try to manage your career, you may finally be forced to take actions that go against your personal beliefs. It’s the nature of any company and something all workers must learn how to accept. Do your best to minimize such circumstances but also learn how to warrant such activities if absolutely necessary. Those who fail to rationalize their jobs will fall victim to alcoholism and other unhealthy coping methods if they don’t learn how to deal naturally.
The doctrine and administrative guidelines that govern the notion of”ethics” can get very complicated. If you’re unsure about whether or not you may be violating your company’s standards of integrity, it never hurts to ask!