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.
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:
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:
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 mentoring program 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 student mentor or course mentor, or clinical mentor 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 or WGU staff member in consultation with the mentoring program 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