Ethics education for medical house officers: long-term improvements in knowledge and confidence

Journal of Medical Ethics 23 (2):88-92 (1997)
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To examine the long-term effects of an innovative curriculum on medical house officers' (HOs') knowledge, confidence, and attitudes regarding medical ethics. DESIGN: Long term cohort study. The two-year curriculum, implemented by a single physician ethicist with assistance from other faculty, was fully integrated into the programme. It consisted of monthly sessions: ethics morning report alternating with didactic conferences. The content included topics such as ethics vocabulary and principles, withdrawing life support, informed consent, and justice. Identical content was offered simultaneously at the largest affiliated community hospital. SETTING: A multi-hospital university training programme from July, 1992 to June, 1994. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-nine HOs responded in 92. Thirty HOs from the same cohort responded in 94 (response rates = 83% v 71%; P = 0.19). RESULTS: The curriculum was well received, with 96% of HOs finding the sessions stimulating. Previously validated scales of knowledge and confidence were administered at baseline and at follow-up. The average knowledge score improved 14% (P < 0.001). Confidence also improved, rising from 3.3 to 3.8 on a 5-point Likert scale (P < 0.001). These findings were independent of age, gender, religion, and prior education. The only attitudinal change was an increase in the proportion of residents who thought that ethics should be a required part of residency training (57% v 80%, P = 0.05). CONCLUSION: This curriculum appears practical, popular, and effective. It should be readily transferable to other institutions

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Daniel Sulmasy
Georgetown University