The Rise of Hospitalists: An Opportunity for Clinical Ethics

Matthew W. McCarthy, Diego Real de Asua, Joseph J. Fins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Translating ethical theories into clinical practice presents a perennial challenge to educators. While many suggestions have been put forth to bridge the theory-practice gap, none have sufficiently remedied the problem. We believe the ascendance of hospital medicine, as a dominant new force in medical education and patient care, presents a unique opportunity that could redefine the way clinical ethics is taught. The field of hospital medicine in the United States is comprised of more than 50,000 hospitalists-specialists in inpatient medicine-representing the fastest growing subspecialty in the history of medicine, and its members have emerged as a dominant new force around which medical education and patient care pivot. This evolution in medical education presents a unique opportunity for the clinical ethics community. Through their proximity to patients and trainees, hospitalists have the potential to teach medical ethics in real time on the wards, but most hospitalists have not received formal training in clinical ethics. We believe it is time to strengthen the ties between hospital medicine and medical ethics, and in this article we outline how clinical ethicists might collaborate with hospitalists to identify routine issues that do not rise to the level of an "ethics consult," but nonetheless require an intellectual grounding in normative reasoning. We use a clinical vignette to explore how this approach might enhance and broaden the scope of medical education that occurs in the inpatient setting: A patient with an intra-abdominal abscess is admitted to the academic hospitalist teaching service for drainage of the fluid, hemodynamic support, and antimicrobial therapy. During the initial encounter with the hospitalist and his team of medical students and residents, the patient reports night sweats and asks if this symptom could be due to the abscess. How should the hospitalist approach this question?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-332
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of clinical ethics
Volume28
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy

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