This assignment is usually offered during the freshman year of medical school, which is a great time to introduce students to the workplace environment where health care professionals will find themselves on a daily basis. Students learn important concepts that they will use in their future careers.
“One of the most critical aspects of the medical profession is the ethical responsibilities to patients and families,” said Dr. Sara Kertzer, the director of clinical curriculum at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “This assignment provides a comprehensive look at the ethics surrounding medical decision making.”
Dr. M. Jeffrey Malouf, the director of occupational health and safety at the UPMC School of Medicine, agreed. “The assignment also serves as a guide for future career planning for health care professionals who choose to enter the field,” he said. “This will allow them to identify their career goals, develop a realistic plan of action, and pursue them with zeal.”
Most health care professionals deal with situations where they have to make difficult decisions, many of which are based on what can be determined through investigation. As they work under intense pressure, the need to make good decisions will often come into play.
Helping students develop the skills to make those decisions is part of the assignment. Part of the essay includes the following: Questions that allow students to think critically about the ethical questions involved. What questions and/or problems arise because of cognitive dissonance?
How can students prepare for this situation, which seems “unfair”? How can they ensure that they are acting in the best interests of their patients or the institution? These questions can be used as “fire drills” for the course.
The assignment helps students develop and hone their skills needed to help their health care professional navigate through the ever-changing regulations of medical practice. Students also learn valuable steps they can take when faced with such dilemmas.
Themes of autonomy and morality are key to help students formulate responses to dilemmas presented by their health care professional colleagues. This assignment helps students develop strong communication skills. They can use a variety of techniques, such as discussing, consulting with their own physician, or doing research in order to learn how to better manage the dilemmas that arise as a result of their job.
The assignment can also help students learn about the three main areas of medical law. “Each profession has its own set of laws, and patients’ rights to make decisions regarding their own care, the relationship between physicians and patients, and the right of patients to question their physicians and receive informed consent are some of the concerns addressed in this assignment,” said Dr. Deborah Ohr, director of the law program at Ohio State University College of Nursing.
The assignment can help students learn about the regulatory requirements surrounding the working environment of medical professionals. The law in this area includes the rights of patients and care providers, the obligation of employers to maintain patient confidentiality, and the duty of employers to provide workers with the proper training.
Finally, the assignment can help students learn how to protect the public from medical malpractice. “Most of the cases that involve the working environment of health care professionals are governed by statute or regulation, rather than by contract,” said Dr. Danielle M. Riendeau, associate professor of surgery and biostatistics at Stanford University School of Medicine.