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Friday, December 22, 2017

Professional Self-Care to Prevent Ethics Violations

Claire Zilber
The Ethical Professor
Originally published December 4, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Although there are many variables that lead a professional to violate an ethics rule, one frequent contributing factor is impairment from stress caused by a family member's illness (sick child, dying parent, spouse's chronic health condition, etc.). Some health care providers who have been punished by their licensing board, hospital board or practice group for an ethics violation tell similar stories of being under unusual levels of stress because of a family member who was ill. In that context, they deviated from their usual behavior.

For example, a surgeon whose son was mentally ill prescribed psychotropic medications to him because he refused to go to a psychiatrist. This surgeon was entering into a dual relationship with her child and prescribing outside of her area of competence, but felt desperate to help her son. Another physician, deeply unsettled by his wife’s diagnosis with and treatment for breast cancer, had an extramarital affair with a nurse who was also his employee. This physician sought comfort without thinking about the boundaries he was violating at work, the risk he was creating for his practice, or the harm he was causing to his marriage.

Physicians cannot avoid stressful events at work and in their personal lives, but they can exert some control over how they adapt to or manage that stress. Physician self-care begins with self-awareness, which can be supported by such practices as mindfulness meditation, reflective writing, supervision, or psychotherapy. Self-awareness increases compassion for the self and for others, and reduces burnout.

The article is here.