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Ethics in Occupational Therapy Fieldwork

Ethics in Occupational Therapy Fieldwork
Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L
April 11, 2016
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Introduction

In Ohio, we have an ethics requirement. Every two years we need to have one CEU that is related to ethics and cultural competency. With any licensure board you are allowed to write them a letter, so I wrote them a letter about five years ago when I started to do some of these ethics talks and said, "Why do we need ethics?" I received two individual emails from members of the licensure board basically saying, "What are you up to?" I said, "No, literally, I just want to know why you thought it was important that we need to have ethics training." They sent me a response letter (see Figure 1), I am going to read you the salient points. "The ethics requirement was enacted for occupational therapy practitioners to refresh their knowledge on the ethical laws governing the practice of occupational therapy, and to enhance the licensee's ability to maintain an ethical conscience to preserve the integrity of the profession. In addition the ethics requirements strengthen the occupational therapy community by maintaining consumer confidence in the occupational therapy services being provided."

 

Figure 1. Letter from state board. View enlarged version (PDF)

I think that is true and I think it is really important for us to make sure that in all situations we are being ethical, but especially when we are dealing with our students. It is really important that we show them how occupation therapy needs to be practiced. I think it is important across the board in terms of everything we do but especially in relationship to our students.

Ethical, Legal, and Moral Reasoning

Ethical, legal, and moral reasoning are not the same thing (see Figure 2). Sometimes things can be moral but illegal. An example would be decisions made in the 60's where people followed their moral beliefs, but were in some ways breaking the law, like civil rights or voting rights. Something also could be legal but unethical. For example, in terms of marijuana legalization in some places it might be legal to smoke marijuana, but you can still be fired from your employer. Those are all things that we need to make sure we keep in the forefront of our mind.

 

Figure 2. Differentiating between ethical, legal, and moral reasoning.

There is a famous quote from Socrates (see Figure 3), "I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only make him think." It is important for us to be thoughtful about what we do and how we act. It really does have serious consequences for us and certainly for the students we supervise. As we think about differentiating our ethical, legal and moral reasoning, ethics is basically a branch of philosophy. It helps to frame arguments. 


dennis cleary

Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L

Dr. Dennis Cleary is Director of Clinical and Experiential Education for Occupational Therapy at The Ohio State University. Dr. Cleary teaches courses in fieldwork preparation, consultation, and supervision of occupational therapy assistants, Task Analysis, and Therapeutic Interventions at Ohio State.  Dr. Cleary has an appointment at the Nisonger Center at Ohio State where he works in transition services with young adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Dr. Cleary has over 80 presentations and publications on ethics, portfolios, dysphagia, environmental access, technology and transition. He is the Primary Investigator or Co-Investigator for over $5.3 million dollars in state and federal grants. 



Related Courses

Continued Learning Podcast: Fall Prevention and Social Determinants of Health, Implications for Practice
Presented by Lisa Juckett, PhD, OTR/L, CHT, Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L
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Social determinants of health and their impact on falls among older adults will be discussed in this course. Case illustrations from the home- and community-based service setting will be provided. This course is part of the Continued Learning Podcast series.

Continued Learning Podcast: Occupational Therapy And The Transition To Adulthood And Employment
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The role of occupational therapy in supporting the transition to adulthood and employment including transition outcomes, barriers to employment, evidence-based assessment and intervention, and resources to support practice will be discussed. This course is part of the Continued Learning Podcast series.

Continued Learning Podcast: Pediatric Hospitalization, Obstacles And Opportunities For OT Practitioners
Presented by Laura Stimler, OTD, OTR/L, BCP, C/NDT, Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L
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Participation barriers that children and families face during pediatric hospital admissions will be explored during this podcast. Opportunities for occupational therapy practitioners will be discussed to ease the burden of prolonged hospital stays. This course is part of the Continued Learning Podcast series.

Continued Learning Podcast: Integrating Extended Reality (XR) With OT Practice
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Extended reality (XR) technologies and platforms and their support of ADLs and rehabilitation goals will be discussed in this course along with the facilitators and barriers of this treatment. This is part of the Continued Learning Podcast series.

Continued Learning Podcast: Understanding The Evidence For Therapeutic Extended Reality (XR)
Presented by Robert Ferguson, MHS, OTR/L, Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L
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Evidence-based treatment strategies and techniques to provide an engaging, motivating, task-oriented, and salient experience providing the requisite use, repetition, and intensity of training for skill acquisition via extended reality (XR) will be discussed in this course. This is part of the Continued Learning Podcast series.

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