About a year ago I went off to an excellent presentation given by Bruce Hillowe, who is not only an excellent speaker and attorney but was also trained as a psychologist. This is a unique and extremely helpful combination for those of us who work as Thriving Practitioners in the area of mental health. At the presentation Hillowe made a very specific suggestion for record keeping; a colleague sitting in the audience at the time said, “I’ve been in practice for over 20 years and I’ve never done it that way and its never been a problem!” Care to guess what happened to her less than 3 months later? She was consulting with Hillowe on this very issue. The point of this illustration? Risk management is not for ‘someone else’ – it’s for you. If you have a Practice of any sort then risk management is something for you to consider.
Risk management is the continuing process to identify, analyze, evaluate, and treat potential hazards and monitor risk controls so as to best lessen the effects of those potential hazards on your Practice. That’s a mouthful! In super simple terms? Its making sure you’ve taken all necessary steps to protect yourself and your clients from any potential hazards. This includes educating clients as to potential risks they might not be aware of.
Most Thriving Practitioners can not operate in any professional context without taking some risks whether that be completing tax filings for a client, providing legal support, holding a therapy session of any kind or offering a suggestion. In doing any of those activities we open ourselves up to some level of potential concern.
How to manage that risk? Let’s start with the most basic piece; acknowledge that a potential risk is even possible. Once we’ve done that we’re on our way to putting into place basic measures which can protect the Thriving Practitioner.
Your specific professional organization likely has a code of ethics. It’s an excellent guideline for your professional behavior as well as a roadmap for avoiding risky situations. Learn and put into place any Federal and State regulatory requirements that apply to your Practice. If you’re covered by HIPAA then learn what it says, get the appropriate forms to have clients complete and follow the regulations. Connect with your colleagues and learn from them. If a colleague relates an incident from their Practice about a client who did this or that, you have a great window on what could likely come your way one day! Use it!
By way of example, I recently obtained a form from a colleague of mine who frequently works with children and uses it to alert parents that he’s unwilling to get involved in custody cases. Is it a perfect form? No. Do I even currently work with children? No, however, I do work with adults who have children. Is that form now a part of my collection of handy forms? You bet!
We can not protect ourselves from all risky situations and if we tried to its likely we’d never see another client or venture out of our homes. What we can do is continually monitor, analyze and evaluate our Practice habits to make them the best they can be! Wishing you all the best as you seek to analyze, evaluate and monitor!