Ethical perspective on quality of care

The nature of ethical dilemmas identified by new graduate and experienced speech pathologists Research Report

Belinda J. Kenny, Michelle Lincoln, Katrina Blyth, Susan Balandin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Speech pathologists are confronted by ethical issues when they need to make decisions about client care, address team conflict, and fulfil the range of duties and responsibilities required of health professionals. However, there has been little research into the specific nature of ethical dilemmas experienced by speech pathologists and whether the nature of ethical conflict changes as they acquire experience in the professional workforce. Speech pathologists' perceptions of ethical issues provide insight into factors impacting upon quality of care in contemporary healthcare settings. Aims: To describe, compare, and contrast the nature of ethical dilemmas identified by new graduate and experienced speech pathologists. Methods & Procedures: A narrative methodology was used to explore the ethical dilemmas that participants experienced in the professional work place. Primary data were collected through in-depth interviews with ten new graduate and ten experienced speech pathologists in their work settings. During these interviews, participants were asked to 'tell the story' of ethical dilemmas they identified at work. Outcomes & Results: An ethical story was constructed for each participant based upon keywords and concepts from interview transcripts. These keywords and concepts were coded into group themes that reflected the nature of ethical dilemmas experienced by new graduate versus experienced speech pathologists. Comparing the results of thematic analysis for both groups of participant revealed similarities and differences in ethical dilemmas identified by new graduate and experienced health professionals. Conclusions & Implications: Participants identified ethical dilemmas in the professional practice areas of client management, professional relationships, service delivery, and personal/professional identity. Themes from new graduates' ethical dilemmas included: making safe choices; avoiding conflict, following service delivery rules, and building professional identity. Experienced speech pathologists' themes included: life choices, adapting policies, and professional status. Supporting client autonomy, managing risk taking, adopting fair service delivery policies, and supporting health professionals' ethical practice are part of ethical quality care. The results support the need for an increased focus on ethical practice in the workplace and further support for speech pathologists experiencing ethical conflict in response to service delivery policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-439
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


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