From your first day as a healthcare executive, ethics matter. Yes, ethical decision-making is a skill to be developed and honed, just like any other. Experience is a great teacher—as are mistakes.
As you grow in leadership, your influence inevitably expands beyond the walls of your own healthcare organization. Consider other leaders who have a high profile in your community. They may be religious leaders or from education and business. When leaders are respected, their voices carry far outside of their own settings or institutions. And key to that respect is behavior that is grounded in ethics.
The American College of Healthcare Executives is your co-pilot in ethical leadership practice. The ACHE Code of Ethics, first developed in 1941, is intended to serve as a standard of conduct for members. Nearly four score years later, the ACHE Code offers guidance to all healthcare executives, from early careerists on.
Among its standards are five that speak specifically to a healthcare leader’s responsibilities to community and society. As you expand your leadership presence in more public ways—or seek to do so—consider these five standards. Reflect on how they provide an ethical compass to direct your role in meeting an essential societal need: a healthy population, in the present and future.
An excellent resource for guidance on establishing or expanding your public leadership role is a recent column in ACHE’s Healthcare Executive Magazine, “Obligations to the Community,” by experts William A. Nelson, PhD, HFACHE, and Lauren A. Taylor. In addition to providing insightful commentary on the community and society standards in the ACHE Code of Ethics, featured above, they also present honest advice to healthcare leaders in the public arena. “Of course, there are risks with public engagement in that some people may either disagree with your perspective or think you are overstepping your role,” they acknowledge. “However, we believe the Code calls on healthcare executives not to be silent concerning important issues. The voice of the executive in the public dialogue is crucial….commit to taking a role in social responsibility.”
Ethics Policy Guidance from ACHE
ACHE provides a range of Ethical Policy Statements. Topics include ethical issues related to staff, interactions with suppliers, and confidentiality. All statements are accessible to members and nonmembers alike.
Measuring Your Own Ethical Prowess
No matter where you are in your leadership development, the first step to embracing ethical conduct and decision-making is examining where you stand. ACHE offers a free Ethics Self-Assessment for members and nonmembers alike. The survey is anonymous and can be taken multiple times. Use it to focus on your ethics-related thinking and actions. Monitor how your decisions and behavior evolve over time. As you progress as a healthcare leader, doing so with a solid ethical core is surely one measure of distinction.