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Prejudice is often a phenomenon not only in our general daily lives, but in the work environment as well, especially when the job entails working mainly with other human beings. Human beings are quick to judge others and often don’t sweep in front of their own door before they litter on someone else’s doorstep.
During a clinical rotation this year, I was confronted with a situation that I found particularly difficult to approach and handle. In the back of my mind I knew what the right thing to do was, but I was doubting myself as the situation involved a colleague – the community service physiotherapist.
As healthcare professionals/students working in the healthcare provision sector, we are required by law to document interactions with patients and document all relevant information regarding an assessment and treatment session. These SOAP notes that are documented in the patient’s medical folder is seen as a legal document that can be used as evidence or reference in a court of law. Thus, the importance of proper and accurate documentation cannot be over emphasized.
On this particular block, on numerous occasions, it came to my attention that the particular colleague would go to the patient’s bed, not greet them, open their folder, write in it, and walk away. At some point these patients would be referred to students for physiotherapy treatment. It then came to my attention that this colleague would write up a treatment session (very cryptically) without actually ever treating the patient physically or verbally.
I was very unsure of how to handle the situation. Should I confront her about it? Should I rather go to my superior first? Should I keep quiet and not risk a hostile work environment?
Dr. Lawrence Wilson (2014) states that the concept of integrity refers to being “whole”, “complete”, balanced in one’s life and lifestyle, honesty, truth-seeking, reliability, authenticity and consistency in all areas of your life. Furthermore, these must be your principles of living and truth is the most essential component of integrity.
Professional misconduct or unprofessional behaviour can be defined as behaviour outside the bound of what is considered acceptable or worthy of its membership by the governing body of a profession (Neale, 1996).
In my opinion, the behaviour of the specific colleague would classify as professional misconduct as the occupation requires the healthcare provider to provide a service of high quality that is effective and efficient. Even though SOAP notes are written, the patient never received the service he/she is entitled to. This opinion is supported by the Acts of Professional misconduct which states that failing to maintain a standard of practice of the profession or contravening a standard of practice of the profession as set out in the by-laws is an act of professional misconduct (OPFA, n.d.). But now, if I did not report what I have noticed, will that also fall under professional misconduct? And what about my integrity?
I tried to understand the reason behind her behaviour in attempt to give her the benefit of the doubt and to understand the nature of her wrongdoing. It seemed as if her professional commitments have been compromised by her personal need for earning a living while still maintaining prestige and authority. Could this possible be due to poor character or a lack of integrity? Or purely just due to poor time management?
Casey (2000) explores ten causes for professional misconduct which include:
- Failure to maintain currency of professional knowledge and competence
- Failure to seek assistance or make appropriate referrals
- Difficulties in a professional’s personal life affecting their work life
- Alcohol and drug addictions
- Poor communication
- Failure to appropriately address patient concerns
- Environmental factors
- Personality conflicts escalate to professional misconduct
- Complacency about professional standards
- Professional documentation
There are many different reasons for why an individual could act unprofessionally. In conclusion, lack of rational self-control due to moral weakness and moral indifference due to lack of concern for other as well as moral detachment are some of the main reasons for professional misconduct which indirectly links to one’s integrity in the workplace.
Casey, J. (2000). Top Ten Causes of Unprofessional Conduct. Retrieved on September 29th, 2016 from http://www.fieldlaw.com/articles/jtc_top10causes.pdf
Neale, A. (1996). Professional conduct and professional misconduct: A framework and its application to the accounting profession. Journal of Business Ethics, 15(2), 219-226.
Professional Misconduct Defined | Ontario Professional Foresters Association. (n.d.). Retrieved on 29 September 2016 from https://secure.opfa.ca/regulation-enforcement/regulation-profession/general-standards-guidelines-members/professional
Wilson, L. (2014). Integrity – What it is and what it means. Retrieved on September 29th, 2016 from http://drlwilson.com/Articles/INTEGRITY.htm