The word ethics is derived from the Greek “ethos,” meaning custom or practice, a characteristic manner of acting, or a more-or-less constant style of behavior in the deliberate actions of people. When we speak of ethics, we refer to a set of rules or a body of principles.

Every social, religious, and professional group has a body of principles or standards of conduct that provides ethical guidance to its members.

Chapter 3

Morals and Ethics in Medical Care

The practice of swearing in a member of a guild or profession and taking an oath to do well is very old and is still continued as a tradition in some professional schools.

Ethics, whether they are classified as general or special, such as in legal or medical, are meant to guide us how to accurately judge the moral rightness and wrongness of our actions. All professional interactions must reflect a manner of behavior that supports principles of justice and equality for all human beings as persons, and respect for the dignity of all people.

Every physician takes the Hippocratic Oath to serve as an ethical guide and as a code of conduct. This pledge binds them to uphold certain responsibilities, morals and rules in the science of medicine and practicing the art. In a similar fashion, nurses also have a special pledge, or oath they take upon graduation, often referred to as the Florence Nightingale Registered Nurses and Vocational Nurses Pledge. The Nightingale Pledge was composed by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan and was first used by its graduating class in spring of 1893. It is an adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath:

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”

Upholding medical ethics is not only the responsibility of all physicians but also nurses, medical assistants, and every other member of the medical, nursing and health care team.

The Moral Rule to Do Your Duty

The one element that makes health care ethics different from general ethics is the inclusion of the moral rule, to “do your duty.” This statement is a moral rule because it involves expectations (e.g., of confidentiality). Failure to fulfill these expectations is to do harm to the patients, colleagues, coworkers and the business. When you do your duty you behave morally, and when you behave morally you follow certain ethics.

The Medical Assistant Pledge

Through a simple pledge, medical assistants commit themselves to fulfilling certain duties to those entrusted to their care and to all members of the health care team. It is this commitment to service and to humankind that has made medical assistants the most appreciated “unsung heroes” at the various jobs they hold.

Here is our (unofficial) pledge for medical
assistants to use during their pinning and graduation ceremony:

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and these witnesses to practice faithfully all of my duties as a member of the professional health care team. I hold the care of the sick, and injured to be a privilege and a sacred trust, and will assist the physician with loyalty and honesty. I will hold all personal matters pertaining to the private lives of patients in strict confidence. I dedicate my heart, mind, and strength to the work before me. I shall do all within my power to show in myself an example of all that is honorable and good throughout my medical assistant career.”

We are pleased and proud to say that were contacted by a handful of schools, one of them the Allan Hancock College Medical Assisting Program, to request permission to use our version of the unofficial medical assistant pledge during their medical assistant pinning and graduation ceremony.

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Advance To Next Lesson: Interpersonal Relations

NOTE: Continue only after reading this and the previous lessons!

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