Thursday, December 20, 2012

Professionalism in Health Care

Health and human service delivery continue to evolve necessitating responsibility and change of the model, practice and an evaluation of the service providers against the demands and needs of the clients in the heath care system. the kind of health care required in the modern society is one where there is participation by the consumers as well as one that operates in an environment that focuses on cost reduction, quality improvement and improvement of the general satisfaction of both consumers and service providers. It thus requires the service providers to come up with innovative means of providing health care services. Supporters of professionalism in health care and human service delivery take professionalization to cover not only solutions to specific professional requirements or managerial and administrative issues but also the manner in which the standards of effective health care are achieved (World Health Organization, 2001). This essay examines what it means for health scientists to act professionally.
Professionalism in health care
The health care profession is based on a genuine desire to take care of and serve others, together with a sense of commitment and compassion. Health care service providers are special individuals. Professionalism in health care and human service delivery is a process in which considerable specialized knowledge and experience emanating from physical, biological, and behavioral sciences are applied to the care of individuals undergoing changes in their usual health processes and an implementation of the clinical routine as prescribed by an individual license to work as a health care provider (O'Neill, 2001). Professional health care providers perform tasks and responsibilities that are defined by the profession and are founded on acceptable competence and educational preparation within the structure of restorative and supportive care. The real meaning of professionalism is the possession of unique and specialized knowledge as well as the self-imposed commitment to serve the society. Professionals in health care are expect to reveal a high level of special achievement, altruism and self-sacrifice in their contact with the rest of the society (Miller, 2010).
Professionals in health care have unique attributes that set them apart from other professionals. The profession is characterized by ongoing search for knowledge, a sense of accountability and responsibility for people’s concerns, preparation through specialized education, autonomy and altruism (Miller, 2010). They have to be properly trained in their specialized professions. They need to be competent in their special areas especially due to the fact that they have a responsibility for others people’s lives. Required qualification educationally and in practice is important for health care service delivery. Human service providers require an understanding of the opportunities, responsibilities and concerns inherent in the medical practice. Commitment and observance to civic values is another unique attribute of the profession. Standards and guidelines characterize medical practice founded on ethical commitments (Thomas, 2004). Professionalism in health care includes an engagement in scholarly inquiry for the purpose of identification, evaluation, refinement, and expansion of the body of knowledge. This reveals a high level of commitment to service to community. Additionally, the desire to carry on with the learning process is in line with development of competence and professionalism in health care delivery. Confidentiality is a very important factor in health are and human service delivery. Patient confidential information divulged to a health care profession should remain confidential. A high level of confidentiality in health care reveals a high level of professionalism (Atwal, 2009).

Quality care and service
Provision of quality health care is a central focus in the health care system in Australia. As a result, health care professional organizations and the government have designed and implemented guidelines to enhance quality of care. Health care should thus be provided within a safe and secure environment and it should be what is needed and required by the clients. People seeking health care services should be treated safely, ethically and within legal guidelines. Ethical and legal standards are in place to ensure that this is done. There are six main elements of quality of care: “choice of methods, information given to clients, technical competence, interpersonal relations, follow-up and continuity mechanisms, and the appropriate constellation of services” (O'Neill, 2001:17). In Australia, public health care initiatives include organized social efforts by the government and health care service providers together with communities, in ensuring provision of quality health care (Veatch, Gaylin and Steinbock, 1996).   
Ethical practice
The principle of beneficence in healthcare refers to the acts which are in the best interest of the person in need of care. Another principle related to this is the principle of non-maleficence which refers to averting causation of harm in health care service provision. The principle of autonomy states that individuals should be allowed to come to decisions that affect their lives (Ridley, 1998). Health care providers are normally faced with various ethical dilemmas that necessitate rational decisions. The ability to deal with different situations determines the quality of care in the health care system. This is the idea behind the application of ethical principles. The principles are applied differently according to the situation one is dealing with. As a health care profession one should be able to apply the right principle to the right situation. Ethical principles define the standards of professional practice. Code of ethics may therefore work as an assurance to promotion and protection of the wellbeing of the patients. The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council codes are the standards guiding nursing practice in Australia. Provision of quality health care services is possible where there exist guidelines and standards in health care provision. The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council refers to a professional body that provides the guidelines, networking, research and administration in health care provision in Australia. Ethical decisions in the practice are guided by the codes of ethics in the country. The codes of ethics dictate acts of malpractice and negligence and also how they should be dealt with Kerridge and Lowe et al. 2005).
Legal frameworks
Australia has one of the high quality health care systems in the world. Due to the relentless of the government efforts in professional practice as well as decision making related to the system, the system rates well internationally, and serves a lot of people in the society. The continuing quality and safety of health care in the country is a major concern of the government.  The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care is a government-funded aimed at developing a national tactical framework to guide the efforts towards improvement of safety and quality of the health care services across the country. The commission has been working in conjunction with Australia’s National Agency for Health and Welfare Statistics and Information to ensure quality and safe service delivery in the country’s health care system. Professional incompetent or failure to act professionally refers to one or more occurrences of failure to act according to the established standards to a level which amounts to gross negligence. The development in technology and the resulting expansion of roles in the health care system have increased cases of incompetence and malpractice (Phillips, Davidson, Jackson and Kristjanson, 2006). The Nursing Practice Act is one of the most important legislation in the practice. The law of the country dictates acceptable behavior in the health care system. Negligence and malpractice are commonly utilized interchangeably. There is a criterion set out by law to prove malpractice in health care: is begins with duty to the patient, then a breach of the duty, foreseeability for harm as a result of the breach, and lastly causation. In the case of negligence, there are two kinds of liability: the real actions omitted or committed and the resulting harm from the actions. Such acts can result to legal redress, payment for the harm or termination of employment. In some cases, the professional will be punished by law and loose his or her job. There are cases where punishment by law will be omitted but the person is fired, or a stern warning is given and the person remains in employment. This depends with the extent of the crime and the dictates of the law regarding it (Lovi and Barr, 2009).
Health scientists’ behavior
Healthcare science refers to the applied science that deals with the use of science, technology, math or engineering in the delivery of health care (Bunton and Macdonald, 2002). Health scientists are therefore the scientists who are directly involved in “diagnosis, treatment, care and support of patients in health care systems” (Morrone, 2001: 7). Professional associations have come up with different mechanisms to guide monitor and control the behavior of health scientists. The professional associations have developed regulations that should be observed by all health scientists. Professional associations have come up with code of ethics to ensure that the scientist act ethically and that they make ethical decisions (Mittelmark, Kickbusch, Rootman, Scriven and Tones, 2008). An example of such code of ethics is the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council codes that are the standards guiding nursing practice and research in Australia. Such are the mechanisms that ensure that heath scientists in the area of nursing and midwifery are guided monitored and controlled. Other professions too have their own standards that guide practice and research. Besides legislations that guide health scientists, the government of Australia has a register of courses (Silverman and Silverman, 2003). The register is aimed at ensuring that health scientists comply with the requirements for accreditation. This and the legislations are the legal mechanisms that guide, monitor and control the behavior of health scientists. Individual health care institutions have also developed their own standards for the purpose of ensuring that health scientists act and operate professionally. The behaviors of all health scientists operating in the country are guided, monitored and controlled by these mechanisms, to maintain professionalism in the health care system (COI, 2008).  
Quality improvement
In the 90s, the quality focus in health care service delivery changed to continuous quality improvement. This entails a change in the manner of looking at standards and accreditation (Kickbusch, 2003). The main agencies involved in the development of commercial standards for healthcare institutions are the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards and the Quality Improvement Council. The Australian Council for Healthcare Standards develops standards that are used predominantly in institutional settings (Treacy and Brosi, 1996). The Quality Improvement Council develops standards for community and primary healthcare settings. The Home and Community Care has also designed its own standards that are used for agencies that are funded by HACC. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has come up with commercial standards to be applied in general practice. Quality standards developed by the International Standards Organisation represented in country by Standards Australia as the Australian Business Excellence Framework developed by the Australian Quality Council can be used across all sectors, though they are commonly used in healthcare. The frameworks used in the country include: the Australian Business Excellence Framework and the Service Excellence Framework (Skok, Swerissen and Macmillan, 2000).   
Though quality improvement through accreditation has been given a lot of importance in research, this process does not in itself ensure improvement of quality in health care systems.  Multidimensional processes are required for reduction of harm and enhancement of the quality of health and human services by health scientist (NSW Health, 1999). In a multidimensional process, a number of quality improvement processes that cover different components of healthcare services are considered. The processes consist of activities dealing with the designing of services and programs as well as the evaluation of the quality and ongoing improvement. Accreditation agencies encourage health care service providers to take part in quality improvement processes. There are various innovative approaches that are being researched by health scientists in the improvement of quality at a service level (Skok, Swerissen and Macmillan, 2000).      
This essay examines what it means for health scientists to act professionally. Australia has one of the most effective health care systems in the world. This has generally been as a result of the commitment of stakeholders in the system to service to the society. There effective ethical and legal frameworks that guide health care service delivery in the country. Since the 1990s, the country has shown its commitment to quality improvement in the healthcare sector. This is evident in the establishment of quality improvement agencies, as well as development of standards and frameworks for accreditation and quality improvement. These have kept the health care system in the country amongst the highest quality health care systems in the world.

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