Black, White, and Gray All Over: Ethics in SLP and Audiology

Can I just tell you that choosing the name of this blog was MUCH harder than deciding to WRITE the blog. I’ve been tossing around names for the better part of six months now, and nothing seemed to stick. It was immensely stressful.  There were so many criteria I had to meet. It had to be a catchy title that was concise yet comprehensive.  I wanted it to be a title that would draw the reader in despite the seemingly snooze-worthy content, and I wanted it to be reflective of the content I intend to write over the next year.  You see, writing a blog about ethics does not appear to be the most exciting thing to write about, so I feel I have a responsibility to attempt to make it engaging and worth reading.  My goal is to make ethics feel a lot less scary and a lot more approachable. Something that you can easily integrate into your daily practice without feeling like it’s some kind of punishment. I want to make ethics relatable and not something you would rather shy away from and not think about.  Something that, instead of wanting to bury it away in the dark recesses of your supply closet, you want to have available and accessible. That sounds all well and good, but how do you actually do that? How do you make ethics friendly? Well, that’s what I’m going to try to do. I want to discuss topics that resonate with you as a practitioner. I want to talk about the everyday ethical issues we face as speech-language pathologists, speech-language pathology assistants, and audiologists. And, I want to do it in a way that empowers you to look at ethics as another tool in your professional toolbox to assist you in advocating for yourself, your patients, and our profession. Because that’s what the Code of Ethics (and the Assistants Code of Conduct) should really do, right? Instead of viewing our Code of Ethics as something negative or punitive, we need to reframe our way of thinking about the Code and begin to view it as something useful and helpful in making the best decisions in our clinical practice.

Alright, so that’s that.  Time for a brief but necessary introduction.   I’m Elizabeth Morrison, and I am the new Ethical Practices Chair for ArSHA.  I began my new role on July 1, 2020, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Kimberly Farinella and Dr. Jeff Meeks on the Ethics Committee with me.  I am a recent graduate (March 2020) of Northwestern University’s Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology program.  I’m the co-owner/co-founder of Dynamic Interventions of Arizona, which is a private practice in Northern Arizona.  I’m a practicing SLP, and I currently work in both school-based and home-health settings.  I am also on ArSHA’s AAC Committee, and I’m a Clinical Educator at Northern Arizona University.  I live in Flagstaff with my husband of 17 years, our 11-year-old daughter, and our three dogs.  In my free time (of which I have little), I enjoy hiking, cooking, and reading.

Speaking of hiking, as I was hiking with my dog last Sunday morning, I came across a father with his two young children playing off to the side of the trail in a clearing.  As I walked past, the little girl who was maybe three years old, ran up to a small grouping of boulders and squealed to herself, “Ooooooo! Ok, let’s climb!” I chuckled as I carried on down the trail, and I thought to myself, that’s precisely it—let’s climb this mountain of ethics together, and let’s have some fun while we do it.  It’s time to flip the script on the Code of Ethics.

Here are some topics I plan to cover this year. These are all, of course, subject to change.

  1. Code of Ethics: Cliff Notes Version
  2. Who, Me? To Whom the Code Applies
  3. Breaking Down the Four Guiding Principles:
    1. Principle of Ethics I
    2. Principle of Ethics II
    3. Principle of Ethics III
    4. Principle of Ethics IV
  4. Hot Topics in Ethics Series:
    1. Issues in Supervision
    2. Conflicts of Interest {disclosures and statements}
    3. Practitioner Independence
    4. Patient Abandonment
    5. Informed Consent for Patients
  5. Ethics Complaints 101
  6. “Did You Know” Series
    1. Reporting members of other professions
    2. Self-reporting (disclosure) of a former ethics violation
  7. EHRs and potential for Fraud
  8. SLP-A Code of Conduct