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Assessing residents in surgical ethics: we do it a lot; we only know a little.

Brewster LP, Hall DE, Joehl RJ. Assessing residents in surgical ethics: we do it a lot; we only know a little. The Journal of surgical research. 2011 Dec 1; 171(2):395-8.

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND: PGY-1 year of surgical residency brings together many persons of disparate experiences and educational backgrounds, including their exposure to ethics. We hypothesized that surgical PGY-1s would have a similar exposure to ethical scenarios but lack the confidence in practice and understanding of ethical principles compared with more senior residents. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Surgical residents were invited to resident-initiated surgical ethics workshops utilizing a standardized text. Here a survey and multiple choice tests were administered to participants. The survey determined prior exposure to ethics curricula, the frequency of exposure to various ethics topics, and their comfort with these scenarios. A multiple choice test then quantified the knowledge base of participating residents. The results were collected and compared between surgical PGY-1s and more senior residents. RESULTS: Eighteen PGY-1s and 12 senior residents completed this curriculum. Resident exposure to ethical concepts was common. Resident confidence in these topics was ranked moderate or higher for both groups. Despite frequent clinical exposure and strong confidence in their skills of addressing these topics, performance on the test was poor, with an average score of 59% for PGY-1s and 47% for more senior residents (P = 0.03). CONCLUSIONS: Despite clinical exposure to and confidence in their management of ethical topics, their knowledge base was poor and worse for more senior residents. Given the overall interest in a formal ethics curriculum and the knowledge deficit demonstrated, educational intervention and professional ethics support should be provided for surgical residents even with the current educational time constraints.





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