Covenant Health
This week's reflection

This week's reflection

I believe the second half of one's life is meant to be better than the first half. The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it.

Frances Lear

Covenant Health puts its ethics to the test

March 07, 2016

Covenant Health is one of seven health care organizations and the only Canadian company recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company. Ethisphere is a U.S. based company whose business is coaching companies on how to define good ethical business practices.

"For us, the honour is more than a designation; it is willingness to hold ourselves up to public scrutiny, to test our ethical performance and to drive quality improvement,” says Gordon Self, Vice-President of Mission, Ethics and Spirituality.  "We weren't successful the first year, but through the recommendations we received, we were able to address identified areas of deficiencies and leverage existing strengths, and we remain committed to continuing that growth."

Ethisphere is honouring 131 companies this year from around the world. The companies are evaluated in five areas of ethical performance: Corporate Governance; Compliance & Ethics Program; Culture of Ethics; Corporate Citizenship, and; Leadership, Innovation & Reputation.

Gordon says for Covenant Health, ethics is foundational.

"Every decision we make, be it at the bedside or around our senior leadership table, is values driven.  The question we have to constantly ask ourselves is whether these decisions are aligned with who we say we are as an organization.  Do our personal and organizational values consistently inform the choices we make?  In humility, that is a question we all have to ask ourselves, and to keep striving in living up to that ideal every day."

The Mission Discernment tool was designed to help Covenant Health leaders make good decisions in alignment with the organization’s mission and values.


Covenant Health received high marks for its mission discernment. It has a tool, recognized nationally by Accreditation Canada as leading practice, to help staff work through difficult organizational matters. For example, it was used on an increasingly sensitive societal issue—the use of disclosed and hidden electronic recording devices, such as nanny cams, in the care setting. The discernment recognized potential benefits of cameras, such as keeping families connected, as well as privacy risks and other trust issues.

“It is an issue we recently faced at one of our Lethbridge sites. A family set up a camera in their loved one’s room; it was discovered by a staff member cleaning. We were shocked at first and then disappointed,” admits Tracy Sommerfeld, Senior Director Operations, Rural Senior's Care. “We felt, why would they do this, do they have a problem with their loved ones care, why didn’t they come to us first?"

This basic recording device was placed in the room of a resident at a Lethbridge care facility. The family of the resident said they were happy with their loved one’s care, it was there as a safety measure.

Tracy says the care team approached the family in the spirit of understanding their needs. It turned out the family was recording out of a sense of security. They never even reviewed the recordings; it was there “just in case.” But the incident highlighted an issue for Tracy and the organization as a whole. 

The mission discernment process involved a literature review and brought together approximately a dozen people from across the organization to look at a variety of scenarios from many perspectives. The result is a position statement which is now being circulated for feedback and will eventually guide education and policy.

 "Being recognized as a 2016 World's Most Ethical Company® is an affirmation of our commitment to deepening ethics in all we do, as the issue with electronic recording devices attests,” says Gordon.  “The designation is only a start.  There is, of course, always more for us to strive for, but it's still something for which Covenant Health should be really proud”.

 “World’s Most Ethical Companies” and “Ethisphere” names and marks are registered trademarks of Ethisphere LLC