PAEA Board of Directors has approved a Code of Ethics for members and leaders of the Physician Assistant Education Association.
The core of this code is this: As a member, director, or leader of PAEA you agree to:
- Conduct oneself toward other members and leaders with fair judgment, professional courtesy, and respect for others.
- Act with integrity and in accordance with academic standards when developing professional and educational materials for PAEA.
- Present your credentials, knowledge, skills, and experience fairly and accurately.
- Interact with, or on behalf of, PAEA in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws.
- Abide by the PAEA Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and Policies and Procedures Manual.
- Refrain from using your association with PAEA for personal gain or private inurement.
If you are considering running for a PAEA office or volunteer position, you should read the Code of Ethics policy carefully, particularly the sections pertaining to conflict of interest (COI), 6.01.04–6.01.11. PAEA defines a COI “an interest that may or may not be financial in nature suggesting divided loyalty on the part of the director or leader between obligations to PAEA and to the directors’ or leaders’ personal interests or to the interests of some other organization or cause.” When you apply for a PAEA leadership position, you will be asked to complete a conflict of interest disclosure form. Please see below for more information on PAEA’s conflict of interest policy and other aspects of its Code of Ethics.
Why has PAEA developed a Code of Ethics?
As an organization, PAEA is accountable to its membership to demonstrate that it carries out its business in a manner consistent with the best interests of the organization and membership, and in a fair and ethical manner. The Code of Ethics was developed to create a formal method of accountability for the organization.
A major impetus for PAEA and other similar organizations to create formal written ethical codes was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, by which the US Congress established protections for shareholders in businesses from accounting errors and fraudulent practices. Most authorities hold that even nonprofit organizations are required to provide annual assessments and verification of the adequacy and effectiveness of key internal controls over financial reporting processes. Irrespective of this legislation, an organizational code of ethics provides a framework and mechanism to support and maintain the best practices of business in an association.
How does the Code of Ethics apply to faculty and staff of member programs?
Members are expected to adhere to the Code of Ethics when interacting with or as an agent of PAEA. All faculty and staff of member programs must be aware of the PAEA Code of Ethics and how it may apply when seeking a position in PAEA as an elected official, an appointed volunteer, or in a leadership position of any kind.
What is a conflict of interest?
A conflict of interest, for PAEA’s purposes, is defined as an interest that may or may not be financial in nature suggesting divided loyalty on the part of the director or leader between obligations to PAEA and to the directors’ or leaders’ personal interests or to the interests of some other organization or cause. Conflicts of interest occur as part of daily life, particularly for professionally engaged members who may be involved with multiple organizations, and do not, in and of themselves, imply any illegal or unseemly behavior or activities.
How is a conflict of interest identified?
The primary method for identifying conflicts of interest is through member self-disclosure of business and other relationships by PAEA members in the course of applying for Board or other volunteer positions. Members who have concerns or specific knowledge about other members with potential conflicts may also submit inquiries for further review by PAEA.
What are manageable and unmanageable conflicts?
Unmanageable conflicts are those that clearly divide a person’s loyalty between PAEA and another organization or cause. These require a person to give up one or other position. Manageable conflicts are those that can be managed, such as through recusal from conversations that relate to the issue of concern, or abstaining from voting on certain issues. See below for examples.
Does having a conflict of interest mean I cannot participate in PAEA leadership, committees, and councils?
No. With few exceptions, conflicts of interest can be managed and therefore do not prohibit participation in PAEA leadership. Transparency is a very important part of the process of identifying and managing conflicts of interest. If you have a question about whether a potential conflict of interest can be managed, contact PAEA.
How are conflicts of interest handled by the Governance and Ethics Board?
Self-reported conflicts of interests and inquiries about possible conflicts of interest are reviewed by the GEB to determine whether or not competing interests can be managed in a way that allows PAEA leaders to fulfill their duties to PAEA.
Will inquiries from members be handled confidentially?
The desire for confidentiality will be weighed and discussed as part of the process for deciding whether or not a conflict of interest can be managed. While a reasonable effort will be made to maintain confidentiality, disclosure may be necessary during the process.
How does PAEA ensure fairness in the review of conflict of interest inquiries?
We maintain confidentially and follow due process. The GEB follows specific policies and procedures as outlined in the Code of Ethics.
Examples of Conflicts of Interest
Because of the almost infinite number of possible combinations of (1) external affiliations and interests that candidates for Board or other volunteer positions may have, and (2) levels of involvement with PAEA, the Association generally refrains from making blanket statements as to what does and does not constitute an unmanageable conflict of interest. The key is transparency: All candidates for PAEA positions should list all organizations with which they are affiliated in any way; the PAEA Governance and Ethics Board can then review these disclosures and flag potential COI on a case by case basis.
That said, two examples of unmanageable conflicts are:
For Board positions:
Holding a Board of Directors or staff position with:
- The national PA organizations (and their subsidiary organizations):
- The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant
- The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants
- The American Academy of Physician Assistants
For exam item writers:
- Participation in other exam development activities for service or pay (excluding faculty work in writing exam items for program use by their students)
Most other potential conflicts would need to be assessed on a case by case basis and are likely to be manageable, including membership of a state academy board. Our overall goal is to allow for experienced, involved PA educators to run for the PAEA Board or other PAEA volunteer positions, and for any conflicts they have to be managed, without compromising PAEA’s ability to operate according to the highest ethical and legal standards. Again, the key is to disclose all relationships and be open to dialogue to determine manageability.