The top 10 ethical issues students should be taught
Ethics can impact the professional and personal development of students, but what are the specific present-day issues educators should prepare them for as future physicians? If you’re searching for concrete insights, look no further. An infographic breaks down the top ethical issues researchers suggest physicians in training learn right now.
Although there isn’t one single approach to teaching ethics and professionalism, students must understand ethical standards and how they meet them in practice while they’re still in school. That’s where modernizing ethics education becomes valuable. Enter the Romanell Report on medical ethics education, recently published in Academic Medicine.
The report creates a more comprehensive list of 26 proposed objectives for present-day medical school and residency training programs. Some objectives expound on common principles in medicine—like protection of patient privacy and disclosure of information to patients—while others offer moral considerations beyond the typical “patient-physician dyad,” according to the report’s authors.
Here are some of these more emerging ethical issues for students to explore. (Also check out the AMA Code of Medical Ethics for in-depth policies on each topic).
- Self-awareness, including professional identity and self-care (see the Code on physician health and wellness)
- Social media (see the Code on professionalism in the use of social media)
- Concerns about colleagues’ impairment, incompetence and mistakes (see the AMA Principles of Medical Ethics and the Code on reporting impaired, incompetent or unethical colleagues)
- Medical trainee issues, including disclosure of student status, the tension between education and best care for patients, the hidden curriculum, and moral distress (see the Code on medical student involvement in patient care)
- Acceptance of gifts from patients and grateful patient philanthropy (see the Code on gifts from patients).
- Assessment of patient decision-making skills, especially related to surrogate decision making
- Cross-cultural competencies and health disparities (see the Code on racial and ethnic disparities in health care)
- How to manage conflicts of interest versus obligations in education, clinical practice and research (see Code on such relevant topics as guidelines for conflicts of interest, conflicts of interest in biomedical research, managing conflicts of interest in the conduct of clinical trials and financial relationships with industry in continuing medical education)
- Maternal-fetal medicine, including reproductive technologies and termination of pregnancy
- Role of health professional’s personal values in the clinical encounter
The report also urges educators to consider new approaches to teaching ethics that transcend basic instruction. Schools “must strive to move learners from knowledge acquisition and skills development to behavior change in which excellent patient care is the goal,” the authors said.
For instance, employing role-play scenarios for students to test their decision-making skills or creating online courses using a “flipped classroom” approach (in which students watch lectures online on their own, saving class time for discussion and application of the material) are helpful methods to try, according to the report. Stay tuned for more on strategies and teaching methods for medical education ethics at AMA Wire®.
Additional information on ethics in training
Follow the AMA Journal of Ethics, starting with this month’s issue, which examines the delicate balance between a physician’s personal interest in patients and professional boundary guidelines.