PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL CODE OF CONDUCT IN PHYSIOTHERAPY
Physiotherapy refers to rehabilitation services that is provided by trained and qualified therapist to patients in order to help them maintain, develop, and restore their maximum functional movements. A Physiotherapist is responsible in assisting these individual regain maximum functional abilities, to minimize pain and discomfort in order for them to perform daily functional activities with ease whilst maximizing quality of life. These amazing rehabilitation programs are administered by physiotherapists around the world, sharing a mutual vision of promoting rehabilitation and preventions with the aid of electrotherapeutic interventions.
As a qualified physiotherapist for the past 8 years, I have had the privilege to learn and experience various rehabilitation programs in numerous setting, ranging from small physiotherapy health clinics, large scale rehabilitation settings (Hospital Rehabilitation Cheras), as well as community physiotherapy programs for the elderly within Malaysia. Physiotherapy requires the therapist to be in close and prolong contact with their patients during several treatment/therapy sessions.
During my days as a physiotherapy student, I have always wondered how a therapist should act and if there are rules on what we should and shouldn’t do. I could still remember vividly the day our class was introduced, on the “Physiotherapy Ethical Code of Conduct” by one of my lecturers. She was very passionate of her profession and it sparked an interest in all of us. I remember her voice resonating soundly through the classroom, saying “the professional code of conduct will be the “Holy Grail” for all practicing physiotherapists”.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) states that the ethical code of conduct was created in relation to the 5 roles of physiotherapy (patient management, consultation, education, research and administration) and is grounded by principle core values such as compassion, professionalism, integrity, altruism, accountability and social responsibility. It encompasses guideline, responsibilities and the ethical principles governing the conduct of all physiotherapist . Ethical code of conduct reflects the distinctive nature of physiotherapist’s contribution to health and well-being, acting as a moral anchor that assures the patients and community that physiotherapy strives for the highest standards of ethical practice.
I strongly stand by the four (4) principles of ethical conduct. Firstly, a therapist is responsible to deliver an effective service for all who came to seek help without exhibiting discrimination, favouritism and/or racism as a therapist should deliver effective treatment that are of value to their patients with sound evidence-based practices with respect to the patient’s autonomy, whilst providing professional advice in prioritizing the interest and needs of that particular individual.
Secondly, a therapist should strive to achieve excellence within their practice. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “without continual growth and progress, such word as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning”. There is no perfect therapist, because the best ones don’t try to be as they concentrate on constantly improving themselves. I believe that getting out of one’s comfort zone to experience something challenging in one’s career can help improve self-confidence in realizing how much potential there is still waiting to be explored.
Thirdly, a physiotherapist should always take responsibility of their actions. A successful therapist should show accountability in their actions when they are treating their patients as well as making decisions, including their delegation of duties to their colleagues.Finally, a therapist should behave ethically. I believe that a therapist must understand the impact of their own beliefs, values and behaviour on their current practice and their interaction with their colleagues, patients and community. One must act in honesty and integrity when dealing with activities concerning patient’s personal data, health records and other legal documents.
As I am fortunate and thankful to be able to have such experiences with many different physiotherapist around Malaysia, I’ve spent most of my training years in the private healthcare rehabilitation setting within KPJ Healthcare Berhad. As a matter of fact, I was born in one of the KPJ Hospitals. Ha! The coincidence. So, how did I actually ended up being a physiotherapist? Well, let just say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Following the footsteps of my mother (she is also an employee in one of KPJ’s Hospital, yes! another coincidence, again) I have developed a strong interest in rehabilitation at a very young age due to her passion within the healthcare industry.
The context of rehabilitation that encompasses physical, psychological, emotional and social well being has fascinated me and I believe it is and will be the future of healthcare medicine. I strongly believe that all professional healthcare providers regardless of specialty should see ethical code of conduct as a benchmark within their clinical practices. While ethical codes does not instruct healthcare practitioners exactly how you should act/react in every situation, it does act as a guide during our decision making in highly complexed situations within the healthcare industry. Every healthcare professional is responsible to act in an ethically responsible manner, ensuring the safety and earning the trust of our patients and community.