Engaging Tomorrow’s Doctors in Clinical Ethics: Implications for Healthcare Organisations

Health Care Analysis 29 (4):319-342 (2020)
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Clinical ethics can be viewed as a practical discipline that provides a structured approach to assist healthcare practitioners in identifying, analysing and resolving ethical issues that arise in practice. Clinical ethics can therefore promote ethically sound clinical and organisational practices and decision-making, thereby contributing to health organisation and system quality improvement. In order to develop students’ decision-making skills, as well as prepare them for practice, we decided to introduce a clinical ethics strand within an undergraduate medical curriculum. We designed a programme of clinical ethics activities for teaching and assessment purposes that involved using ethical frameworks to analyse hypothetical and real-life cases in uni- and inter- professional groups. In this paper, we draw on medical student feedback collected over 6 years to illustrate the appeal to students of learning clinical ethics. We also outline the range of benefits for students, healthcare organisations, and the field of clinical ethics arising from tomorrow’s doctors experiencing clinical ethics early in their training. We conclude by briefly reflecting on how including clinical ethics within tomorrow’s doctors curricular can secure and continue future engagement in clinical ethics support services in the UK, alongside the dangers of preparing students for organisational cultures that might not exist. We anticipate the findings presented in the paper will contribute to wider debates examining the impact of ethics teaching, and its ability to inform future doctors’ practice.



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