If your career and reputation depends on your professional license, one of your biggest goals as you go through each work day should be to protect it. The primary way to do this is to anticipate what is expected of you ethically, and make continuous efforts as you do your job and deal with clients or patients to assure that your actions will be interpreted as ethical and sound. At the very least, you should be able to show that your conduct was consistently in good faith, and that you believed your actions were in the best interest of the clients or patients who sought your care or advice.
Watching For Ethical Traps
In addition to your conduct with clients or patients at work, your behavior in the community and in general can also be called into question by licensing boards. Things such as criminal activity or various indiscretions, even if they aren't work related can cause licensing boards to take a second look at your character, which even if their findings don't cause you to lose your license, it may still damage your reputation.
Mixing Business And Pleasure
Pursuing a personal relationship with a client or patient outside the professional relationship is one of the top ways a professional's credentials might be called into question. The worst case scenario is the pursuit or acceptance of a sexual relationship, but any recreational interaction can potentially be questioned. For those who live in small towns, this can be a bit more tricky. You and a client may both have kids on the same soccer team, or your client may provide a service that you need, and may truly be the most convenient option. Going out of your way to see someone else may be a red flag that signals your professional relationship. Whenever possible, avoid accidental encounters and don't show signs of recognition if you do see. The confidentiality agreement you have with your client or patient is something you need to make a marked effort to protect. Even when a professional relationship has ended, ethics experts recommend waiting two years before pursuing anything personal.
Avoiding The Appearance Of Exploitation Or Misuse Of Power
Besides relationships with patients or clients, those with professional licenses that hold managerial positions also need to think about their relationships with their employees. Make sure their contracts are defined in a way to cover whatever business related task you may need them to complete, and make sure what you ask of them is business related. You may make it in your assistant's job description to drive you to the airport if you are headed on a business trip. A ride to meet your family for a personal vacation may be crossing the line.
Importance Of Good Records And Discretionary Practices
In order to do your best work with your clients or patients, it is important to keep good records of your interactions, however you also need a good system of keeping files secure and safe from those who do not have the need to review them. Be prepared to assure clients that their information is safe and private. Make sure you are fully aware of any laws in your state regarding maintaining these documents and that you are complying with them as necessary.
It is possible that you may be a model citizen and hold yourself to the highest possible standard and still get a letter that you are being investigated by your licensing board for a potential violation. Your first line of defense is to remain innocent in your actions in order to try to prevent this scenario, however innocence will not rule out the possibility of an inquiry. This is why it is important to double check your malpractice insurance policy to make sure it covers board investigations as well as personal inquiries that a client might seek. Having the coverage you need will help you retain legal counsel should anyone ever raise any questions regarding your performance or conduct.
If you are accused of anything, whether it is by the licensing board or anyone else, contact an attorney for specific advice on how to proceed in your specific situation in order to best protect your license and career.