In theory, ethical dilemmas are easy to solve: “Well, of course I’d say no to that” or “I would have done it this way—no question!” But when you’re faced with a real-life ethical issue … sometimes the choice isn’t very easy to make.
To help you practice solving these dilemmas, ASHA holds an annual Student Ethics Essay competition. The competition pushes you to think about a tough issue, study ASHA’s Code of Ethics, and articulate your thoughts about it.
Although we can’t help you solve a tough ethical dilemma, we can help you do your best on the essay. For expert advice, we reached out to Malayna Bailey from Marshall University and Ashley Peltier from Northeastern University to get some insights into how they approached their 2017 award-winning essays.
Why did you submit an essay?
MALAYNA: My professor gave it to us as an assignment and held a mini competition to select three for submission to ASHA.
ASHLEY: I’ve always loved writing! When the director of our in-house clinic spread the word about the competition, I was excited about the opportunity to learn more about the field and apply my new knowledge via one of my personal passions.
How did you approach the essay?
MALAYNA: First, I looked at ASHA’s Code of Ethics and found a principle that aligned with 2017’s topic, “Independent and Evidence-based Clinical Judgment.” After reading the code, I thought the best approach was to write about prognostic statements.
To familiarize myself with the typical format of the essays, I read past winning essays and learned that ones with examples and scenarios really stood out. They helped readers grasp the essence of the main ideas. After that, I just let myself get creative.
ASHLEY: I read through the Code of Ethics and selected principles that seemed especially relevant to the prompt. Then I drew on situations that had been discussed in my classes. We’d had many conversations about the ethics of assessing, diagnosing, and treating culturally and linguistically diverse individuals, which informed my scenario.
Why should students participate?
MALAYNA: Writing this essay made me read and apply the Code of Ethics in a meaningful way. It pushed me to think about an ethical issue and carefully articulate my thoughts on the matter. Of course, students should also participate because they might actually win $750!
ASHLEY: I found it greatly increased my familiarity with the ASHA Code of Ethics and I can now apply them automatically to every day clinical decisions.
What did you learn from the experience?
MALAYNA: The Code of Ethics is not at all a “law book” that’s only useful when you think someone has committed an ethics violation. It can be a tool that, when applied appropriately, can guide our practice to become better professionals.
ASHLEY: I gained confidence in my ability to recognize and handle potentially unethical scenarios in a clinical setting. Should I run into a questionable situation, I believe I’ll now know how to proceed with integrity.
Can you share any hints for success?
MALAYNA: Use the Code of Ethics as your guide, and use clear, concise examples or scenarios to relay your main ideas.
ASHLEY: Don’t shy away from writing about a situation because you’re unsure how to handle it. If you’re uncertain, it’s all the more reason to research it and equip yourself with an answer!
Now, Go Get Em!
So, there you have it—advice from someone who’s been there, done that—and even got a prize to show for it!
Good luck writing your essay—oh, and they’re due April 13!