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Clinical Case Report

Ethical professional practice: exploring the issues for health services to rural Aboriginal communities

Submitted: 9 August 2011
Revised: 27 November 2011
Published: 27 February 2012

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Author(s) : Malone JL.

Citation: Malone JL.  Ethical professional practice: exploring the issues for health services to rural Aboriginal communities. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2012; 12: 1891. Available: (Accessed 18 October 2017)


Context:  This article provides a first person account of the experience of professional ethics for a psychologist who has worked in several Aboriginal communities in Alberta, Canada.
Issues:  These small rural communities tend to have few services and health services are typically provided by multidisciplinary health teams. Team members are predominantly community members, creating an embedded service environment that highlights the need for integrity in relationships. As the psychologist travelling to these communities I require sensitivity to cultural considerations, multiple party responsibilities, and community pressure on service delivery.
Lessons learned:  In these settings, in consideration of the principle of respect for the dignity of persons, there is enhanced need for non-discrimination, particularly as most community members are vulnerable persons. Also, the context of small community clinics highlights issues of privacy and confidentiality. Responsible caring in these kinds of general practice also raise ongoing questions about competence and the need for daily risk–benefit analysis. Finally, responsibility to society is also an overarching consideration given the conditions of Canadian Aboriginal communities.

Key words: Aboriginal, Canada, community pressure, cultural context, embedded environments, multidisciplinary, professional ethics, psychology.

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