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ACSM Certification: Professional Ethics and Customer Satisfaction-More in Common than You Might Think

Keteyian, Steven J. Ph.D., FACSM

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: July-August 2005 - Volume 9 - Issue 4 - p 29-30

The importance of putting the customer first in the health and fitness industry.

Steven J. Keteyian, Ph.D., FACSM (, is program director, Preventive Cardiology, Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, Detroit; adjunct associate professor, Department of Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit; and clinical professor, Exercise Science Program, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan. He is ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® certified and a Second Vice President of ACSM.

Employed at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, we are continually asked to "Put Each Patient First" when it comes to being sure every in-patient and out-patient encounter exceeds all possible expectations in terms of quality of care and comfort. In fact, this message is so important that our department's (Cardiology), my unit's (Preventive Cardiology), and my own personal evaluation are all based, in part, upon clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction scores. Bottom line: much emphasis is placed upon what we say and what we do.

After reading the above, you're probably thinking that the idea of doing one's best and treating others like kings and queens is really just good business for those of us working in a service sector like health care. I agree, but I encourage you to extend this same mindset of "service excellence" to the health/fitness clients who you work with each and every day.

I say this because such a goal is an expectation if you are an ACSM certified health/fitness professional. In fact, the concept of "red carpet care" helps frame or is embedded in the official Code of Ethics that applies to all ACSM certified and registered professionals.

Although the phrase "Code of Ethics" may, for some, conjure up past stories of professional negligence or wrongdoings, the truth of the matter is that these types of problems are few and far between. Instead, much of what is found in the ACSM Code of Ethics for Certified and Registered Professionals pertains to how we present ourselves and the care we provide-in other words, putting each client first.



Words and phrases such as integrity, compassion, competence, evidence-based, confidentiality, legally permissible, professional standards, and advancing one's knowledge and abilities are found throughout the document. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to take the time to read this Code of Ethics, which can be found at



Approved in 2002 by the ACSM Committee on Certification and Registry Boards, the Code of Ethics embodies the meaningful deliberations of dozens of health/fitness professionals who set out to establish polices that serve all ACSM certified professionals. Appropriately so, it addresses our responsibility to the public and to the profession and provides guidelines as to how we can correctly disclose the affiliation of an ACSM certified professional. In short, it is a "meeting of the minds" between each of us as professionals and how we are expected to act and practice as individuals certified through ACSM. Please note that this Code of Ethics applies equally to all ACSM certified professionals, regardless of ACSM membership.

The Code of Ethics addresses one particular issue that is often asked about and is worth spending a bit more time on. Specifically, can you use the ACSM logo or list your ACSM credential on your business card or other program/business-related materials? If yes, then how best to do so?

Under the section of Public Disclosure of Affiliation, the Code of Ethics for certified professionals provides clear and helpful information:

Any (ACSM certified professional) may disclose his or her affiliation with ACSM credentialing in any context, oral or documented, provided it is currently accurate. In doing so, no one (ACSM credentialed professional) may imply College endorsement of whatever is associated in context with the disclosure, unless expressively authorized by the College. Disclosure of affiliation in connection with a commercial venture may be made, provided the disclosure is made in a professionally dignified manner, is not false, misleading or deceptive, and does not imply licensure or the attainment of specialty or diploma status. ACSM certified professionals may list their affiliation with ACSM Credentialing on their business cards without authorization. The institutions employing an ACSM certified professional may inform the public of an affiliation as a matter of public discourse or presentation.

As you can see, ACSM and its Committee on Certification and Registry Boards fully supports your actively promoting your certification status. In fact, we encourage it.

As a certified professional, you hold one of the most challenging and respected exercise and fitness certifications that is available today. It is important to let others know that you are well trained and an expert in helping people use exercise to reduce health risk, improve quality of life, and treat disease and disability.

To facilitate and make uniform the process of public disclosure, ACSM developed and makes available identity marks for each of its certification products. These are available through the ACSM certification department once your certification status is confirmed. Please email your request to Obviously, and as mentioned in the Code of Ethics, don't even think of using one of these identity marks if your certification is no longer valid. Therefore, make sure to keep your certification up to date by following the steps associated with recertification. Otherwise, the use of all materials and business cards for public disclosure that promote you as an ACSM certified professional would need to be discontinued. So, avoid headaches in the future, and keep your ACSM certification valid.

In closing, I encourage all of us to continue to "Put Each Client First," making sure that each and every client encounter exceeds all possible expectations in terms of service delivery and quality of care. And, as always, I welcome any and all comments about ACSM-related certification business.

© 2005 American College of Sports Medicine