Does Your Understanding of Ethics Measure Up?

As you prepare to start your CSD career, it’s important to think ahead about how ethical decision-making will be a part of your everyday experience. To create a greater awareness of situations that could pose ethical dilemmas throughout your career—and to get you thinking about how to handle these situations—ASHA established the Student Ethics Essay Award (SEEA) program.

What Is Professional Ethics?

The foundation of professional ethics is the commitment to being honest, accurate, and complete when providing information to others—whether it be with your clients, research participants, families, etc.

Many clinical, research, and teaching scenarios can potentially foster a natural tension between professional obligation and personal preference or gain. Misrepresentation by omission, commission, and/or conflicts of interest can create ethical violations. Adhering to professional obligations and standards is essential to eliminating the chance of an ethical violation.

Disclosure, Misrepresentation, and Conflict of Interest

Through this year’s SEEA topic, students were asked to write an essay that presented an ethical dilemma or challenge that they may face as a clinician or researcher related to disclosure, misrepresentation, and/or conflict of interest. Using ethics resources and the ASHA Code of Ethics (2016), they were asked to

  • identify one or more Principles and the corresponding Rule(s) that they believed had been violated,
  • provide a rationale for their choice(s), and
  • discuss what action(s) they would take to resolve the dilemma.

Exploring Ethically-Challenged Scenarios

This year’s submissions were especially creative and explored a variety of potentially ethically-challenged scenarios. Entries came from students in both audiology and SLP programs. One of the winning entries came from a student in an SLP program who wrote an audiology scenario—now that was a unique approach to the essay challenge! SEEA essay reviewers look for well-written essays that are imaginative, well-researched, and do an excellent job of tying in the Code of Ethics to their scenario’s potential violations.

Check out what ASHA’s 3 SEEA winners had to say about disclosure, misrepresentation, and conflicts of interest from the perspective of a future SLP and/or audiology professional:

1st Place: Kaley Ervin (Texas State University)

Overstatement of Qualifications: Misrepresentation in Clinical Practice

In her essay, Kaley shared, “SLPs regularly make quick decisions about how they present themselves to their clients, their colleagues, and the public. Most of these decisions are made with ease and with ethical guidelines in mind. However, as a field with a specific certification process and timeline that may not be apparent to those outside the profession, it may be easy for a student or clinical fellow to overstate (either explicitly or implicitly) their qualifications in order to garner more professional influence or to avoid an in-depth explanation of the certification process. By being aware of the ways in which an SLP can misrepresent himself or herself and of the supports in place to mentor and guide new SLPs, fledgling SLPs can begin their careers mindful of the ways that they are presenting themselves to their clients, colleagues, and the public and avoid errors of omission and commission that might lead to misrepresentation of their qualifications and certifications.”

2nd Place: Cara Richman (Western Kentucky University)

On Defrost, Disclosure, and Professional Drive

Through an analogy of driving a car with windows that haven’t yet been defrosted, Cara talks about how omitting details in a disclosure statement for a research presentation can cause a lot of harm—not only to the career of the person making the statement; but for the research project as a whole, the future professionals who would use the research, and for their patients.

3rd Place: Rivka Moller (Nova Southeastern University)

Sound Advice: Conflict of Interest in Audiological Practice

Rivka discusses how being a vendor for a product and participating in a research study about the same product could pose a conflict-of-interest and interfere with clinical research results. She explains how this scenario is something many CSD professionals may encounter and says, “This question is also a pivotal consideration in the clinical judgment necessary when evaluating, treating, and creating recommendations for our clients.”

Prepare Yourself

As future audiologists or SLPs and holders of the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), it’s important to be prepared and think now about how you’ll approach ethical dilemmas as a professional. Once your certification application is received at ASHA, you become an official “applicant” for the CCC and under the jurisdiction of the Board of Ethics—so, it’s never too early to become familiar with ASHA’s Code of Ethics!

Questions? ASHA Ethics is here to help! Email us or consult Issues in Ethics Statements for guidance.

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