Learning by doing: Effectively incorporating ethics education into residency training

Stephanie M. Vertrees, Andrew G. Shuman, Joseph J. Fins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Medical ethics is a critical component of the curriculum for clinical trainees. Educational initiatives should adapt content to participants' experience in order to ensure relevance and retain their interest. AIM: To develop and evaluate an experiential educational program for physicians. SETTING: Academic medical center. PARTICIPANTS: Senior internal medicine residents (n = 40). PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: A case-based didactic program was designed in which each resident shared a difficult ethics case from their clinical experience. We created a curriculum around these cases involving formal didactics as well as open-ended discussion and summarized the ethical issues most relevant to the participants. A course survey was administered based upon the validated Students' Evaluation of Educational Quality (SEEQ). PROGRAM EVALUATION: Common issues raised included surrogate decision-making (18 %), refusal of treatment (14 %), capacity/informed consent (10 %), and medical futility (10 %). Mean SEEQ subscale scores for learning value, organization/clarity, group interaction, breadth of coverage, and assignments/readings were 4.5 (maximum possible score 5). Residents unanimously rated the course overall as good/very good, and all agreed or strongly agreed that the course was useful and its structure effective. DISCUSSION: An experiential case-based didactic program in medical ethics engaged adult learners and facilitated a comprehensive and clinically relevant educational initiative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-582
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • experiential learning
  • medical ethics
  • resident education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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