Design practice policies to encourage ethical behavior

Design practice policies to encourage ethical behavior

Time, effort well worth it to design practice code of ethics
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Apr 01, 2004


Marsha L. Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM
Leadership doesn't have to be elusive. In fact, it's become a bit clearer how to be a good leader in the face of significant business ethic challenges over the last several years.

Articles and speakers espouse the values of corporate ethical behavior as the pendulum swings from outright fraud to the Scout's code of honor.

Let's help you design practice policies that encourage ethical behavior.

Learn from better-managed public companies over the last several decades. Approximately 95 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies had codes of conduct two years ago. We suspect the percentage is now up to 100 percent.

Take Texas Instruments, for example. TI's employee ethics handbook dates back to 1961. Management issues business card-size pamphlets to employees to put in their wallets for easy access and as a subtle reminder.

These wallet-sized guidelines direct a chain of thought and action, in the event of employee uncertainty.

  • Is the proposed action legal?
  • Does it comply with our values?
  • If you do it, how will you feel?
  • How will it look in the newspaper?
  • If you know it is wrong, don't do it.
  • If you're not sure, ask.
  • Keep asking until you receive an answer.

Practice managers and administrators can find many guidelines for code of ethics design through the Internet. A well-stated code of ethics should be included in the employee policy manual. Review it annually with all employees. Post your code of ethics, once designed, near the time clock and other important practice information as a constant reminder.

We understand how challenging it is to complete management projects, such as designing a code of ethics. For our readers, the suggested model code of veterinary practice ethics is presented below for you to consider. Please customize it to fit your own specific needs.

Be a good leader. Encourage acceptable, ethical and professional behavior in your practice.