Is it unfair or unethical?

I have numerous nursing colleagues with extensive background and years of experience in infusion nursing, infusion therapy, and vascular access who are now directly employed by entities defined by the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) as “commercial interest”.  ANCC defines  an entity that has a “commercial interest” as any proprietary entity producing health care goods or services, with the exception of non-profit or government organizations. The American Medical Association (AMA) defines a ” commercial interest” as any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients.

Even though these clinicians are not involved in sales or marketing, because of the ANCC standards for disclosure and commercial support, many of these expert clinicians are excluded from speaking at conferences where continuing nursing education(CNE) credits are awarded. Conflict of interest is the issue here since the individual has an opportunity to affect CNE content with products or services from a commercial interest with which he/she has a financial relationship.

Ok, so why not just disclose the relationship and allow the clinician to speak? The provider must have implemented a mechanism to identify and resolve all conflicts of interest prior to the education activity being delivered to learners. Many providers choose not to allow these clinicians to participate in continuing nursing education (CNE) activities to ensure independence from commercial interest. Some providers allow speakers employed by these entities present on topics unrelated to the commercial interest, such as leadership or mentoring for example.

There are codes of conduct to be observed when interacting with healthcare professionals and many companies have adopted these codes and mandates that their employees comply. Is it unfair? There are benefits to having these clinicians speak, they are the experts, they know the products and/or devices, the indications and utilization very well yet they can’t speak at programs awarding CNE contact hours? Is it unethical to use them as speakers knowing that they have the potential to influence content of the CNE? Do we give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that they will be ethical and not show bias? How can they be void of the perception of conflict?

It is unfortunate these clinicians have been classified as “commercial interest” because of their employers. That is reality these days, but remember, we can still learn from the training and education provided by these expert clinicians, we just can’t get contact hours for it.