If you’re not yet working in the professional sphere with public policy or healthcare administration, you may be trying to decide between the two. Sometimes, it’s the difference between working in the public or the private sector: a career as a healthcare administrator, for example, would be in the private sector, but it also involves working with the public, as well as with hospital staff and middle management. Oftentimes, healthcare administrators work with public administrators to advance laws, programs, and policies that help people on a broad societal level. In recent years, there has been the emergence of what’s called the “new public sector,” which expands the definition of public service administration to include nonprofits/NGOs, educational institutions, and private companies.
Because the end goal, in either case, involves bettering the public good, one person at a time, it’s of vital importance that the organization at hand maintain the highest of ethical standards. Rather than leaving the monitoring of ethical behavior in the workplace entirely to management, it can help to hire what’s called an ‘in-house health care quality professional’ to oversee and monitor ethical culture. There is also the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Ethics Toolkits, which outlines the decision-making process and includes the Ethics Self-Assessment Tool to help with monitoring behavior within departments. It’s crucial that our public centers for healing and community organization be run in an ethical manner, lest people feel less-than-safe in their care and management.
Maintaining an ethical framework requires leadership that leads by example. What are some examples of ethical principles behind excellent public service? First, keep in mind that the public interest should always be at the top of your priority list: for example, government processes should always be transparent, balancing the interests of each constituency against the interest of the community, as a whole. Moreover, you should avoid partisanship, remembering that integrity and accountability are of the utmost importance.
Other ethical principles include fiscal responsibility when dealing with community-owned public resources, observance of local laws and regulations, and the promotion of social equality. If you are honest and transparent with public funds, it should follow that you support regular audits and investigations. Moreover, a belief in the law includes support of the constitution as well as dissent, in the event that a whistleblower reports mismanagement or corruption, in public office. And leaders should always respect individual differences, regardless of differences in background or opinion.
One excellent example of a scenario with a lot of potential for individual differences in opinion is the inauguration of a new president. In addition to political differences, there are also the changes in healthcare policy. NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing Dean, Eileen Sullivan-Marx, warns “This period can be fraught with policy mistakes or adoption of new policies that have unintended consequences…” As a result of this added uncertainty, Sullivan-Marx encourages healthcare professionals to look to medicine’s ethical framework and principles—for example, the American Nurses Associations (ANA) Code of Ethics—when faced with a situation with a number of possibilities that aren’t clearly defined.