BSHI and BSHIM Professional Conduct Guidelines and Behavioral Counseling Policy


This document is offered as a guide to set expectations, promote, and develop professional behaviors and attitudes during student tenure in the Western Governors University (WGU) Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics and Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management programs.

Healthcare organizations are managed in a highly-structured, professional, business environment. Students preparing for work in a healthcare environment are expected to know how to function in specific job duties and also to interact with others in an ethical, responsible, and respectful manner. Professional behaviors are necessary for success.

Learning how to interact professionally is a skill a student can learn through practice. Practicing these behaviors during the time spent as a WGU Health Informatics student provides confidence when participating in their professional practice experiences, and later when they move into their new career in health informatics/ information management.
Professional Behaviors in the Academic Environment

All WGU students are required to adhere to the Code of Student Conduct as found in the WGU student handbook.
The rules and regulations found in the student handbook are foundational concepts for developing professional behaviors and attitudes. Suggestions are offered here for developing professional attitudes, and they are by no means all-inclusive. Students may think of others as they review this list.


  • Be accountable: A professional acts responsibly. Students should maintain their call schedule with their program mentor, or reschedule in advance if circumstances arise. They should arrive at proctor sites for exams early and be prepared for their exams. Then follow through with weekly goals they establish with their mentor. 
  • Be receptive to ideas and feedback: Professionals are always looking for ways to improve their skills. Students should seek the assistance of a course instructor when beginning a course to discuss course content. Course instructors are subject matter experts who are committed to student learning and who solicit their ideas for course success. Students should maintain an open attitude when instructors, coaches, mentors or evaluators suggest corrections and revisions to their work; their role is one of support, and at times encouragement or direction helps students to apply themselves more conscientiously to their work and is the support they need to grow. 
  • Have respect for others: Treat others as you wish to be treated. Mentors and instructors are sounding boards and students should feel free to share their frustrations and discouragement, but with proper verbal tone and respectful language. Professionals communicate appropriately in email correspondence and phone conversations. They use language free of profanity and focus conversations on academic progress or needs. When using email to correspond, professionals include correct spelling and punctuation. Both phone voice and email communication make a lasting impression. 
  • Seek new experiences/challenges: Professionals go the extra mile and that’s why they are in leadership roles. The WGU environment requires you to have self-discipline and stay motivated. Students can grow these qualities by challenging and stretching themselves to learn more in their courses. They should give their best always; mediocrity won’t bring them success in the health informatics environment. 
  • Be a team player: Students may be working independently, but they have a large cohort of students moving through the program with them. They should engage in conversations in the communities and participate in information sessions offered by the course instructors. Students may be surprised at what they learn from their peers, and networking is a powerful tool in developing their professional skills.

In summary, growing professional attitudes takes time. Students can practice behaviors that will set them apart from others. This program prepares them for management and leadership in a healthcare organization. Successful leaders tell how it took time and dedication to develop the professionalism people see in them today.

Professional Behaviors in the Professional Practice Experience

The health informatics program includes two 80-hour professional practice experiences (PPE). This portion of the academic program provides students with exposure to, and participation in, the health informatics/information management environment.
It also includes competencies that require the demonstration of professional behavior at the PPE workplace.

Professional Practice I
Competency 730.7.3: Professionalism, Confidentiality, and Ethical Behavior - Graduates display qualities and demeanor of professionalism, practice reflection, recognize the need for, and adhere to, requirements for confidentiality, and engage in ethical behaviors as an independently functioning health informatics professional.
Professional Practice II
Competency 732.4.3: Professional and Ethical Leadership - Graduates exemplify high professional standards, uphold confidentiality requirements, promote guidelines of the American Health Information Management Association Code of Ethics, and demonstrate leadership skills as a health informatics professional at a healthcare organization.
Students at a PPE site should treat their experience the same way they would a job. The same professional behaviors apply. In fact, they are not only representing themselves at the PPE site, but are also representing WGU. Students' actions will have an effect on future students being invited to the site.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) developed a professional code of ethics, and the principles of the code of ethics are based on the AHIMA’s core values.
This code of ethics was revised and approved in 2011. The principles listed below explain the emphasis on the protection of patient health information, the importance of confidentiality, and the value in participating collaboratively in a professional environment.
Code of Ethics 2011 Ethical Principles

A health information management professional shall:


  1. Advocate, uphold, and defend the individual's right to privacy and the doctrine of confidentiality in the use and disclosure of information.
  2. Put service and the health and welfare of persons before self-interest and conduct oneself in the practice of the profession so as to bring honor to oneself, their peers, and to the health information management profession.
  3. Preserve, protect, and secure personal health information in any form or medium and hold in the highest regards health information and other information of a confidential nature obtained in an official capacity, taking into account the applicable statutes and regulations.
  4. Refuse to participate in or conceal unethical practices or procedures and report such practices.
  5. Advance health information management knowledge and practice through continuing education, research, publications, and presentations.
  6. Recruit and mentor students, peers, and colleagues to develop and strengthen professional workforce.
  7. Represent the profession to the public in a positive manner.
  8. Perform honorably health information management association responsibilities, either appointed or elected, and preserve the confidentiality of any privileged information made known in any official capacity.
  9. State truthfully and accurately one’s credentials, professional education, and experiences.
  10. Facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration in situations supporting health information practice.
  11. Respect the inherent dignity and worth of every person.

For the complete code of ethics, refer to this link:
The professional behaviors listed earlier in this document can be applied in the health informatics/information management workplace at the PPE site:


  • Be accountable: Students should arrive at the PPE site 10-15 minutes early to be ready for the workday and receive direction from their PPE clinical coach. They need to show up prepared for the day; if their clinical coach has scheduled them for an early morning meeting, they need to be there early. If students make a mistake, they should admit it and learn from it. If they say they will help someone with a job task, they need to follow through. If students are assigned a project with a deadline, they must meet the timeline and project expectations. 
  • Be receptive to ideas and feedback: Students should be interested in the assigned activities at the PPE. They should participate fully in designated tasks, and if they finish early, students should ask to help others, or ask the clinical coach for ideas on what they may work on. Students can learn even from the most mundane tasks, and a good attitude makes a good impression on others. Students should be open to suggestions from the clinical coach and other staff who are overseeing their work, even if they have extensive experience in their own working environment, there is always something to be learned at the PPE. Students should be open-minded and accept constructive feedback in the spirit in which it is offered. They should be receptive to different ways of looking at problems or performing tasks. Students should value new experiences and take on new challenges as they are offered to them, with a positive attitude. 
  • Have respect for others: Students should be honest in all their conversations and should show a trustworthy attitude. All written and verbal communications should be performed in a way that demonstrates their responsibility as a student and representative of WGU. Students need to dress appropriately. They should speak with their clinical coach before their first day, to determine appropriate dress code for the environment. In most organizations, business casual is expected. Students should not wear jeans or casual clothing, they should remove any facial piercings, and cover any tattoos, and be punctual at all times. Maintain confidentiality of health information always, and never discuss patient information unless it is directly related to the work at hand. They should always comply with agency policies including policies related to patient confidentiality, including HIPAA policies. 
  • Seek new experiences/ challenges: Students set goals for the PPE and review them with their clinical coach. They get out of their comfort zone and try new experiences. They ask questions and are interested in what is going on. The PPE introduces students to the organizational culture, and no two organizations are alike. Take opportunities to meet people, discuss their work, and see how health informatics is used across the organization. 
  • Be a team player: Students should remember, when at the PPE, they should function like a staff member. They support others in their work. A little team spirit goes a long way in making a good impression. 

In summary, students should follow the rules, but not be afraid to show initiative and curiosity. Any employer expects a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Even though the PPE equals unpaid hours, students should treat their time there with the same commitment. They are there to participate in the work environment. If there is downtime, students should ask to help others with any work tasks. It is a good way to learn departmental operations. Use downtime to review policy manuals (there are always enough of those around), or gather information for the tasks required for the PPE courses of study.

Behavioral Counseling for Improvement and Support

This document is a guide to set expectations and provide direction. Health Informatics students must exhibit professional behaviors in an academic environment, and this includes all communications with WGU staff and the professional staff at the PPE.
In the event behaviors are demonstrated which do not follow the ideas and guidelines discussed in this document, the health informatics program will follow the same process as the WGU nursing programs for behavioral counseling.

Behavioral counseling will be initiated when a student fails to meet the expectations of the WGU code of student conduct and the professional behaviors outlined here. The progression from verbal to written counseling is based on student conduct and the need to ensure adherence to professional ethics at the PPE site, the development of professional behaviors, and accountability.
Support toward student improvement includes a discussion of a performance improvement plan, additional training, and support resources accessible to students, and a time frame for review.

If the offense is of a serious nature, direct referral to the discipline process may be warranted with the approval of the Health Informatics program director and program faculty manager.
Steps in Behavioral Counseling
Step 1: Verbal Counseling:
The first level of behavioral counseling consists of ‘in-time’ verbal discussions of behavioral concerns conducted by a student’s immediate supervisor. The immediate supervisor may be WGU staff member, a program mentor or course instructor, or clinical coach at the PPE site.
Verbal counseling discussions focus on minor errors in judgment, unintentional error on the part of students, or the initial instance(s) of performance or communication issues.
Step 2: Written Counseling
Written counseling occurs when initial behavioral issues have not been resolved. Written counseling is initiated by a mentor, instructor, or WGU staff member in consultation with the program faculty manager and other appropriate staff.
While continuing to focus on specific student performance improvement and support, written counseling includes an action plan providing written expectations for improvement.
Step 3:  Referral to Student Conduct Board
If verbal and written counseling do not result in a change in student behavior, students are referred for formal disciplinary action. This will be consistent with processes for behavioral guidelines found in the WGU student handbook.



Article Number: 20526, 2861

No ratings