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Assessment of orientation practices for ethics consultation at Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospitals


Background Few studies have been conducted to assess the quality of orientation practices for ethics advisory committees that conduct ethics consultation. This survey study focused on several Harvard teaching hospitals, exploring orientation quality and committee members’ self-evaluation in the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) ethics consultation competencies.

Methods We conducted a survey study that involved 116 members and 16 chairs of ethics advisory committees, respectively (52% and 62.5% response rates). Predictor variables included professional demographics, duration on committees and level of training. Outcome variables included familiarity with and preparedness in the ASBH competencies and satisfaction with orientations. We hypothesised that responses would be associated with both the aforementioned predictors and whether or not participants had encountered the ASBH competencies in training.

Results A majority of respondents found their orientation curricula to be helpful (62%), although a significant portion of respondents did not receive any orientation (24%) or were unsatisfied with their orientation (14%). Familiarity with ASBH competencies was a statistically significant predictor of respondents’ self-evaluation in particular categories (54% had heard of the competencies). Standard educational materials were reported as offered during orientation, such as readings (50%) and case studies (41%); different medium resources were less evidenced such as videos on ethics consultation (19%).

Conclusions Institutions should re-evaluate orientation practices for ethics committee members that perform ethics consultation. Integrating ASBH competencies and useful methods into a resourceful pedagogy will help improve both member satisfaction with orientation and preparation in consultation.

  • ethics committees/consultation
  • education For health care professionals
  • clinical ethics

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