Unethical or Illegal Behavior - Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
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Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center

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Unethical or Illegal Behavior

Any illegal or unethical conduct by a trainee must be brought to the attention of the Director of Training as soon as possible. Any person who observes or suspects such behavior has the responsibility to report the incident. The Director of Training will document the issue in writing, and consult with the appropriate parties, depending on the situation (see description below).

Infractions of a very minor nature may be resolved among the Director of Training, the supervisor, and the trainee, as described above. 

Examples of significant infractions include but are not limited to:

  • Violation of ethical standards for the discipline, for the training program, or for government employees.
  • Violation of VA regulations or applicable Federal, state, or local laws.
  • Disruptive, abusive, intimidating, or other behavior that disturbs the workplace environment or that interferes or might reasonably be expected to interfere with veteran care. Disruptive behaviors include profane or demeaning language, sexual comments or innuendo, outbursts of anger, throwing objects, serious boundary violations with staff or veterans, inappropriate health record entries, and unethical, illegal, or dishonest behavior.

Depending on the situation and the time sensitivity of the issues, the Director of Training may consult with the Training Committee to get further information and/or guidance. Following review of the issues, the Training Committee may recommend either formal probation or termination of the trainee from the program. Probationary status will be communicated to the trainee, his or her graduate program (with the exception of post-doctoral residents), VA OAA, APA, and/or APPIC in writing and will specify all requisite guidelines for successful completion of the program. Any violations of the conditions outlined in the Probation Notice will result in the immediate termination of the intern from the program.

The Director of Training may also consult with the Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health, Human Resources, regional counsel, other members of hospital leadership (e.g., Privacy Officer, Safety Officer, EEO Officer, Chief of Staff, Facility Director, etc.), VA OAA, APA, APPIC, and/or the trainee’s graduate program in situations where there may be an ethical or criminal violation. Such infractions may be grounds for immediate dismissal. In addition, the Director of Training may immediately put the trainee on administrative duties or on administrative leave while the situation is being investigated.   Under certain circumstances, the training program may be required to alert our accrediting body (APA) and/or other professional organizations (e.g., APPIC, state licensing boards) regarding unethical or illegal behavior on the part of a trainee. If information regarding unethical or illegal behavior is reported by the trainee’s graduate program, the training program may have to follow their policies and procedures regarding clinical duties, probation, and/or termination.

As described in the previous section on remediation of problematic performance and/or conduct, at any stage of the process, the trainee may request assistance and/or consultation outside of the program and utilize the resources listed above. 

All documentation related to serious infractions becomes part of the trainee's permanent file with the Psychology Division. These records are maintained by the Director of Training and kept in secure, locked cabinets in her/his office.