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Through students' eyes: ethical and professional issues identified by third-year medical students during clerkships


Backround Education in ethics and professionalism should reflect the realities medical students encounter in the hospital and clinic.

Method We performed content analyses on Case Observation and Assessments (COAs) written by third-year medical students about ethical and professional issues encountered during their internal medicine and paediatrics clinical clerkships.

Results A cohort of 141 third-year medical students wrote 272 COAs. Content analyses identified 35 subcategories of ethical and professional issues within 7 major domains: decisions regarding treatment (31.4%), communication (21.4%), professional duties (18.4%), justice (9.8%), student-specific issues (5.4%), quality of care (3.8%), and miscellaneous (9.8%).

Conclusions Students encountered a wide variety of ethical and professional issues that can be used to guide pre-clinical and clinical education. Comparison of our findings with results from similar studies suggests that the wording of an assignment (specifying “ethical” issues, “professional” issues, or both) may influence the kinds of issues students identify in their experience-based clinical narratives.

  • Clinical education
  • education
  • education/programmes
  • end-of-life care
  • ethical reasoning
  • internal medicine
  • medical errors
  • medical ethics
  • paediatrics
  • professionalism
  • religious ethics

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