Ethics, Anyone?

“Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.” Dr. Albert Schweitzer

As we approach the mid-term election season in the US, we are assaulted with TV ads declaring one candidate more “ethical” than another. What does it mean – “ethical?” How can we tell if someone is actually ethical? Does he or she look different than everyone else? Is there a mark or designation that affirms one’s ethical-ness? If only it were so easy. . .

On October 1st, the NASMM Board instituted a new policy requiring new members (those who join NASMM after 10.01.10) to participate in two (2) new online Cornerstone classes: 1) Ethics and Accountability & 2) Safety for Senior Move Managers. As NASMM continues to grow in size and scope, we are more mindful than ever about our obligation to earn and keep the public’s trust. Aside from actual clinical medical care, we cannot imagine a more intimate connection than the client-senior move manager relationship. The good news is our 500+ members assume this profound responsibility with great care and concern.

NASMM Founding Board President, Margit Novack of Moving Solutions and eSMMart.com, assisted NASMM in creating the ethics education module. NASMM’s founding members dedicated countless hours of their own time to define the current NASMM Code of Ethics in 2003-2004. Even when the entire NASMM membership could fit into a living room, ethics were front and center.

Can we guarantee every individual who takes the NASMM Ethics class will follow the NASMM Code of Ethics to the letter? No, but we do know we’ve been successful in creating a culture of ethical standards within NASMM. For example, this past weekend, a NASMM member shared an ethical dilemma on the NASMM listserv regarding a particularly daunting client situation. Within 48 hours, she (and we!) had received 42 responses with varying answers from around the country. People weighed in throughout the evening and day, all wanting to help a colleague, an SMM soul mate with her struggle. The thread connecting all of the responses was the desire to serve the older adult, the family, and the senior living community to which the client was moving. According to the NASMM Code of Ethics, when interests compete, the primary mission of NASMM members is to always serve the older adult in transition.

Members challenged each other to dig deeper during this particular listserv conversation. As a group, they looked at the problem from every possible perspective. I read each new response with a blend of curiosity, awe, and deep respect.  The reverence for life our members demonstrated would have made Dr. Schweitzer proud.

NASMM is fortunate to have its Code of Ethics studied and examined in the scholarly business journal, Journal of Business Ethics, by two leading researchers in the field of business ethics – Carol C. Cirka, PhD and Carla M. Messikomer, PhD. NASMM will continue to work with Drs. Cirka and Messikomer (at the 2011 NASMM Conference in FL this January) as every organization’s Code of Ethics should be organic – responding appropriately to internal and external changes and challenges.

The bottom line is that NASMM members do not operate in a vacuum or bubble. Their membership in the association obligates them to act in the client’s best interests – every time. Also, as part of the association, every NASMM member has a duty to his or her colleagues to learn and uphold best practices in senior move management. NASMM, now over 500 members strong, will move forward as one, as this amazing profession continues to grow in the coming years.

Our Code of Ethics will light the way.

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