Cultural Competence is the “Choices” topic this month. Authored by Marisa Colston, PhD, ATC and Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, PhDRead More
In addition to maintaining their own ethical practices, athletic trainers may find themselves in the predicament of witnessing another athletic trainer, coach or other professional engaging in unethical behavior. When this happens, what is your role? Should you report the behavior, or simply brush it off as none of your business? The best answer might be somewhere in between.
When I was a high school athletic trainer I was faced with such a dilemma. I had been at the school for several years and had built up a lot of trust with my athletes. Most of them were comfortable enough with me that they would talk to me about almost anything. One day an athlete came to me and said she needed to talk but wanted me to promise not to tell her parents. I was very wary of the situation, I wanted her to feel like she could come to me with problems but I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with the idea of having to keep something from her parent. In the end, curiosity won me over and I decided to hear her out.
The athlete proceeded to tell me that she had been feeling awful all day. She had the worst headache she remembered ever having and even the thought or sight of food make her feel sick. Upon further investigation, it turned out that the athlete had her first experience with alcohol the night before and she had a hangover. I informed her that this was her body’s reaction to drinking too much and promised that I would not tell her parents. However, as the athlete elaborated on her story of the previous night’s events, it was revealed that the alcohol had been provided to her by one of her assistant coaches. This coach had graduated from the same high school a few years earlier and had returned to help coach her team. At this point in the conversation I knew this had escalated way past not telling a parent that their daughter had been drinking. I knew that I could no longer keep this to myself and informed the athlete of this. At first she was upset that I was no longer going to keep her secret, but after I explained my dilemma, and why it was inappropriate for the coach to provide her with alcohol she understood. At this point, I met with the head coach and let her know what had happened and let her handle the situation from there.
In this particular situation I felt it was my duty to let the head coach know that one of her assistant’s wasn’t behaving in a way that he should be with his athletes.
By: Ryan Clark, AT Student & Marisa Colston, PhD, ATC
A ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is one who has a dual personality that alternates between phases of good and bad behavior (www.merriam-webster.com). Every component of athletic training is people-oriented. Risk management and injury prevention, clinical examination, acute and chronic injury care, therapeutic exercise, nutrition, psychosocial intervention, and many other aspects in the AT job description all require effective communication skills. The wheels of the athletic medicine bus can fall off when a Jekyll and Hyde personality exists among the healthcare team. You know that person, the one who you never know who you are going to get from day-to-day, so you tip-toe around gingerly, hoping to avoid the wrath. This is the individual who thinks that the ‘golden rule’ is something to be mocked at, when things do not go his or her way. Unpredictable behavior of this nature often interferes with trust (by colleagues, AT students, and athletes) and can substantially interfere with the effective delivery of health care.
Certainly, the profession of athletic training is not for the faint of heart. The world of sport competition is filled with extreme pressures to perform which can have a negative impact on all individuals working within the system. Developing a thick skin is a must, but tolerating belligerent outbursts from people of power is an abuse and should not be accepted or condoned (either actively or passively). Simply because someone can get away with abusing his or her power demonstrated through a lack of self-control, does not make it right. An AT must learn to be flexible to work with all different kinds of personalities, and approach each individual and situation with professionalism, respect, confidence, and a positive attitude. Compromising one’s ethical standards; however, should not be part of the employment agreement.
Although many disagree with this philosophy, a career, athletic training, should be what you do, not who you are. Who you are and the moral compass that guides you should govern your career. Are you the same person, both in an out of the work-setting? If not, why? Is it difficult to treat people in the work setting with the same kindness that you would a friend or family member? If so, again, why? Consistency is paramount in establishing trust and a good rapport. We all have bad days and say or do things that should not have been said or done, so we need to embrace forgiveness. Be unyielding in your ethical standards, be consistent, be approachable. At the end of the day, it’s not about perspective or opinion, but the uncompromised welfare of the athlete. We all cringe when having to work with a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Don’t be one of them!