Background Studies have shown that medical students and residents believe that their ethics preparation has been inadequate for handling ethical conflicts. The objective of this study was to determine the self-perceived comfort level of medical students and residents in confronting clinical ethics issues.
Methods Clinical medical students and residents at the University of Maryland School of Medicine completed a web-based survey between September 2009 and February 2010. The survey consisted of a demographic section, questions regarding the respondents’ sense of comfort in handling a variety of clinical ethics issues, and a set of knowledge-type questions in ethics.
Results Survey respondents included 129 medical students (response rate of 40.7%) and 207 residents (response rate of 52.7%). There were only a few clinical ethics issues with which more than 70% of the respondents felt comfortable in addressing. Only a slight majority (60.8%) felt prepared, in general, to handle clinical situations involving ethics issues, and only 44.1% and 53.2% agreed that medical school and residency training, respectively, helped prepare them to handle such issues. Prior ethics training was not associated with these responses, but there was an association between the level of training (medical students vs residents) and the comfort level with many of the clinical ethics issues.
Conclusions Medical educators should include ethics educational methods within the context of real-time exposure to medical ethics dilemmas experienced by physicians-in-training.
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