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Exceptional Clinical Practice Requires These 4 Competencies (Hint: Ethics is one of them)

4 Competencies for Exceptional Client-Centered Care:

  1. Law and Policy

  2. Knowledge and Evidence-Based Practice

  3. Reflection

  4. Ethics


This post could be simplified as the ONE competency required to be an excellent healthcare provider, but it is important to understand the interrelatedness of these areas. Of the four skills, a Code of Ethics is the most crucial to being an excellent clinician. Being skilled in Ethics builds the foundation for all clinical practice and the result is simple - ideal service delivery and client care.

Why Ethics?

An ethical practice requires reflection, for example, reflecting on client caseload, reflecting on one’s own skills and experience, and monitoring for self-bias in quality of service delivery. An Ethical practice will demonstrate awareness of laws and policies which guide exceptional service delivery. An ethical understanding of knowledge and evidence-based practice is present in any field requiring ongoing education for certification and licensure. It is a necessity for every clinician to seek opportunities to expand knowledge of current standards of practice, seek new research justifying intervention methods, and adjust clinical intervention as appropriate. Knowledge, by the way, does not mean having all the answers or knowing everything at all times.


Knowledge means developing consistent practices of ethical reflection and decision making, guided by law and policies, to understand what you don't know and developing resources and networks to support your clients.


Establishing a clinical foundation based on ethical practices inherently leads a practitioner to

  • Reflection

  • Providing services based on law and policy and

  • Using research and evidence-based practices not only to provide optimal service delivery, but also become a knowledgeable advocate for the rights of your clients.

Additional personal and professional skills important to clinical practice like …

  • Conflict Resolution

  • Interpersonal communication (i.e., ability to connect with clients)

  • Problem-solving

  • Intervention methods

  • And even Leadership & Team Building …

… will develop, by default, from a foundation based on these four clinical principles: Law and Policy, Knowledge and Evidence-Based Practice, Reflection, and Ethics.

A clinician adhering to these standards will develop into an authentic, excellent clinician.


Professional Recognition of Ethical Practice

Recognition of ethical compentences as a foundation of clinical practice continues to increase. Per the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), “Codes of ethics or professional conduct are principles designed to help professionals conduct business honestly and with integrity” ( As of 2020, speech-language pathologists are required to complete a review of Ethics and Ethical Decision-Making during the professional 3-year clinical certification maintenance interval (

Codes of Ethics are recognized by all professional health care organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO) which lists the following as essential to ethical practice:

  • Integrity

  • Accountability

  • Independence and Impartiality

  • Respect for the Dignity, Worth, Equality, Diversity, and Privacy of All Persons

  • Professional Commitment

Final Thoughts ...

Ethics form the foundation for understanding past, present, and future Laws and Policies affecting clients, the need for consistent Reflection on service delivery, and inherently, an ongoing desire for seeking knowledge and evidence-based practice, and current standards of practice (also know as “best practices”).

Keep the Discussion Going ...

Do you keep these four competencies at the forefront of your practice? How have they helped you to be your professional best? You can sign up using an email address to continue the discussion and leave comments.

Here are some other resources for additional reading on Ethical practices:

World Health Organization’s “Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct” Pamphlet (pdf):

Ethics Information From Other Health Organizations:

ASHA’s Issues in Ethics Statements:

State-specific Codes of Ethics for Speech-Language Pathologists:


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