This article is intended to serve as a roadmap to help new healthcare ethics leaders establish or renew an ethics program in a healthcare organization. The authors share a systemic step-by-step process for navigating this early career passage. In this paper, we describe five critical success strategies and provide explanations and concrete tools to help get you on the road to success as quickly and painlessly as possible. We will discuss how to define your role; diagnose your organization’s needs; build (...) important relationships; and develop a strategic plan for starting or revitalizing an ethics program. We also review some of the more personal challenges that may be encountered along the way, and identify social supports and self-care strategies. The advice we provide grows out of reflections on our collective experience as new ethics leaders in three Ontario healthcare organizations. (shrink)
This paper details the implementation of the Clinical Ethics Needs Assessment Survey (CENAS) through a pilot study in five units within Hamilton Health Sciences. We describe how these pilot sites were selected, how we implemented the survey, the significant results and our interpretation of the findings. The primary goal of this paper is to share our experiences using this tool, specifically the challenges we encountered conducting a staff ethics needs assessment across different units in a large teaching hospital, and the (...) facilitators to our success. We conclude with a discussion of the limitations of this study, our plans for using the results to develop a proactive ethics education strategy, and suggestions for other organizations wishing to adapt the CENAS to assess their staff ethics needs. Our secondary goal is to advance the “quality agenda” for ethics programs by demonstrating how a tool like the CENAS can be used to design more effective educational interventions, and to support strategic planning and proactive priority-setting for ethics programs. (shrink)
As ethics committees and programs become integrated into the “usual business” of healthcare organizations, they are likely to face the predicament of responding to greater demands for service and higher expectations, without an influx of additional resources. This situation demands that ethics committees and programs allocate their scarce resources (including their time, skills and funds) strategically, rather than lurching from one ad hoc request to another; finding ways to maximize the effectiveness, efficiency, impact and quality of ethics services is essential (...) in today’s competitive environment. How can Hospital Ethics Committees (HECs) begin the process of strategic priority-setting to ensure they are delivering services where and how they are most needed? This paper describes the creation of the Clinical Ethics Needs Assessment Survey (CENAS) as a tool to understand interprofessional staff perceptions of the organization’s ethical climate, challenging ethical issues and educational priorities. The CENAS was designed to support informed resource allocation and advocacy by HECs. By sharing our process of developing and validating this ethics needs assessment survey we hope to enable strategic priority-setting in other resource-strapped ethics programs, and to empower HECs to shift their focus to more proactive, quality-focused initiatives. (shrink)
Currently, there is no authoritative credentialing process for individuals engaged in ethics practice, no accreditation system that sets minimum education standards for programs aiming to prepare these individuals for their work, and little evidence available that any particular training model is actually achieving its pedagogical goals. At the same time, a number of healthcare organizations and universities now routinely offer post-graduate programs, clinical fellowships and in-house training specifically devised to prepare graduates for ethics practice. However, while their numbers appear to (...) be growing, information about these programs is limited. In this paper, we describe the goals, content and strategies of three educational programs offered in Ontario, Canada. These case studies highlight the diversity of ethics education available to those who engage in ethics practice and underscore the need to take this variety into account in the development of future education standards that would specify minimally acceptable educational requirements. (shrink)
Canadian ethicists have a long legacy of leadership in advocating for standards and quality in healthcare ethics. Continuing this tradition, a grassroots organization of practicing healthcare ethicists (PHEs) concerned about the lack of standardization in the field recently formed to explore potential options related to professionalization. This group calls itself “practicing healthcare ethicists exploring professionalization” (PHEEP). This paper provides a description of the process by which PHEEP has begun to engage the Canadian PHE community in the development of practice standards (...) and related projects. By making our process and its ethical and cultural underpinnings transparent, we hope to prompt PHEs around the world to reflect on the importance of context, process and principles (not just outcomes) in the exploration of and possible movement towards professionalization. By sharing some of our key successes and challenges, we also hope to inspire our colleagues to recognize the value in developing practice standards and to contribute to this endeavor. (shrink)
Hospital ethics committees (HECs) and ethicists generally describe themselves as engaged in four domains of practice: case consultation, research, education, and policy work. Despite the increasing attention to quality indicators, practice standards, and evaluation methods for the other domains, comparatively little is known or published about the policy work of HECs or ethicists. This article attempts to open the ?black box? of this health care ethics practice by providing two detailed case examples of ethics policy reviews. We also describe the (...) development and application of an evaluation strategy to assess the quality of ethics policy review work, and to enable continuous improvement of ethics policy review processes. Given the potential for policy work to impact entire patient populations and organizational systems, it is imperative that HECs and ethicists develop clearer roles, responsibilities, procedural standards, and evaluation methods to ensure the delivery of consistent, relevant, and high-quality ethics policy reviews. (shrink)
This paper explores the theory and practice of embodied epistemology or mindful embodiment in ethics case consultation. I argue that not only is this epistemology an ethical imperative to safeguard the integrity of this emerging profession, but that it has the potential to improve the quality of ethics consultation (EC). It also has implications for how ethics consultants are trained and how consultation services are organized. My viewpoint is informed by ethnographic research and by my experimental application of mindful embodiment (...) to the development of an ethics consultation service. My argument proceeds in four phases. First I explore the notion of ‘situatedness’ in the bioethics literature, identifying gaps in the field's theories as they apply to EC. I then describe my theoretical approach to embodiment grounded in critical-interpretive medical anthropology and autoethnography. I use embodiment to refer to a moral epistemology grounded in the body, comprised of the interplay of physical, symbolic, intersubjective and political elements. Third, I describe how mindful embodiment can inform the role of the ethics consultant and the development of effective training techniques, vocabularies and processes for EC. I also discuss the benefits of this orientation, and the potential harms of ignoring the embodied dimensions of EC. My goals are to expose the fallacy of the ‘theory-practice gap’, to demonstrate how my own EC practice is deeply informed by this theoretical orientation, and to argue for a wider definition of what ‘counts’ as relevant theory for ethics consultation. (shrink)
This paper provides a description of the role of the clinical ethicist as it is generally experienced in Canada. It examines the activities of Canadian ethicists working in healthcare institutions and the way in which their work incorporates more than ethics case consultation. The Canadian Bioethics Society established a Taskforce on Working Conditions for Bioethics (hereafter referred to as the Taskforce), to make recommendations on a number of issues affecting ethicists and to develop a model role description. This essay carefully (...) assesses this model role description. (shrink)
In this pilot qualitative study 13 clinical bioethicists from across Canada were interviewed about their experiences of conflicts of interest and/or conflicting interests in their professional roles. The interviews generated five composite cases. Participants reported being significantly impacted by these experiences both personally and professionally.
This paper examines one aspect of professional practice for bioethicists: managing conflicts of interest. Drawing from our qualitative study and descriptive analysis of the experiences of conflicts of interest and/or conflicting interests (COI) of 13 Canadian clinical bioethicists (Frolic and Chidwick 2010), this paper examines how bioethicists define their roles, the nature of COIs in their roles, how their COIs relate to conventional definitions of conflicts of interest, and how COIs can be most effectively managed.