The expectation of employees in the workplace is that they will be treated ethically with respect, integrity, honesty, fairness, empathy, sympathy, compassion, and loyalty. Professional healthcare employees are no different in their expectation of receiving such treatment.
· Respect implies the ability to consider and honor another person’s beliefs and opinions. This is a critical quality for a healthcare worker because patients come from a variety of racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Coworkers’ opinions must also be respected, even if contrary to one’s own.
· Integrity is the unwavering adherence to one’s principles. People with integrity are dedicated to maintaining high standards. For example, integrity means that healthcare professionals will wash their hands between each patient contact even when no one is looking. Dependability, such as being on time for work every day, is a key component of integrity. Integrity is so important that many professions include a statement regarding this quality in their code of ethics. For example, the Pharmacy Technician Code of Ethics states that this healthcare professional “supports and promotes honesty and integrity in the profession, which includes a duty to observe the law, maintain the highest moral and ethical conduct at all times, and uphold the ethical principles of the profession.”
· Honesty is the quality of truthfulness, no matter what the situation. Healthcare professionals must have the ability to admit an error and then take corrective steps. Anyone who carries out orders for a physician has a duty to notify the physician of any error or discrepancy in those orders.
· Fairness is treating everyone the same. It implies an unbiased impartiality and a sense of justice. This is a particularly important characteristic for supervisors.
· Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others without actually experiencing their pain or distress. Acting in this caring way expresses sensitivity to patients’ or fellow employees’ feelings ( Figure 1.2 ).
· Sympathy, on the other hand, is feeling sorry for or pitying someone else. Most people, including patients, react better to empathetic listeners than to sympathetic ones.
· Compassion is the ability to have a gentle, caring attitude toward patients and fellow employees. Any illness, and in particular a terminal illness, can cause fear and loneliness in many patients. A compassionate healthcare professional can help to ease this fear.
Remember to treat each person, whether patient or coworker, the way you wish to be treated.
Figure 1.2 Confidentiality regarding Patient’s Identity
© Monkey Business/fotolia
· Loyalty is a sense of faithfulness or commitment to a person or persons. Employers expect loyalty from their employees. This loyalty should be granted unless the practice of one’s employer is unethical or illegal. For example, it is never appropriate to recommend that a patient seek the services of another physician unless instructed to do so by the employer. By the same token, employees expect loyalty, or fair treatment, from their employer.
Loyalty to one’s employer does not mean hiding an error that has been committed by that employer or by a physician.
Additionally, there are specific issues that affect the workplace, such as privacy, due process, sexual harassment, and comparable worth.
· Privacy, or confidentiality, is the ability to safeguard another person’s confidences or information. Violating patient confidentiality is both a legal and ethical issue that carries penalties. Employees have a right to expect the contents of their personnel records to be held in confidence by their employer. By the same token, it is inappropriate for employees to discuss the personal life of their physician/employer.
· Due process is the entitlement of employees of the government and public companies to have certain procedures followed when they believe their rights are in jeopardy. The Fourteenth Amendment acts to prevent the state’s deprivation or impairment of “any person’s life, liberty, or property without due process of the law.” The Fifth Amendment also restricts the federal government from depriving individuals of these rights without due process of the law. In a work environment, this means that employees of the government and public companies accused of an offense are entitled to a fair hearing in their defense. Due process is also a protection guaranteed to healthcare workers as it relates to their state certification, license, or registration to practice. To remove a person’s license to practice his or her profession is the same as removing a person’s livelihood. Thus, the removal of this documentation is not to be taken lightly. If there are allegations (accusations) made claiming that a healthcare worker, such as a medical technologist, nurse, or a physician, has committed malpractice, then their rights to defend themselves and due process must be protected. This means that they must receive a notice of the charges, an investigation of the allegations, and a hearing if enough evidence is found. If these allegations are proven to be false, then the individual must not be penalized.
· Sexual harassment, or gender harassment, is defined in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, which are part of Title VII of the Amended Civil Rights Act of 1964:
· Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.