Background There is little evidence of junior trainee perspectives in the design and implementation of medical ethics and law (MEL) curriculum in UK medical schools.
Aim To determine the ethical issues the foundation year 1 (FY1) doctors (first year after graduation) encountered during clinical practice and the skills and knowledge of MEL, which were useful in informing MEL curriculum development.
Method The National Research Ethics Service gave ethical approval. Eighteen one-to-one interviews were conducted in each school with FY1 doctors.
Analysis Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim; a thematic analysis was undertaken with the transcriptions and saturation of themes was achieved.
Key findings Themes closely overlapped between the two study sites. (1) Knowing my place as an FY1 (this theme consisted of four subthemes: challenging the hierarchy, being honest when the team is titrating the truth, taking consent for unfamiliar procedures and personal safety vs competing considerations); (2) Do not attempt resuscitation)/end-of-life pathway and its implications; (3) ‘You have to be there’ (contextualising ethics and law teaching through cases or role plays to allow students to explore future work situations); and (4) advanced interpersonal skills competency for ethical clinical practice.
Conclusions The data provide a snapshot of the real challenges faced by MEL FY1 doctors in early clinical practice: they may feel ill-prepared and sometimes unsupported by senior members of the team. The key themes suggest areas for development of undergraduate and postgraduate MEL curricula. We will work to develop our own curriculum accordingly. We intend to further investigate the applicability of our findings to UK medical ethics and law curriculum.
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