Individual Moral Philosophies and Ethical Decision Making of Undergraduate Athletic Training Students and Educators

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Human Performance and Recreation


Context: Ethics research in athletic training is lacking. Teaching students technical skills is important, but teaching them how to reason and to behave in a manner that befits responsible health care professionals is equally important. Objective: To expand ethics research in athletic training by (1) describing undergraduate athletic training students' and educators' individual moral philosophies and ethical decision-making abilities and (2) investigating the effects of sex and level of education on mean composite individual moral philosophies and ethical decision-making scores. Design: Stratified, multistage, cluster-sample correlational study. Setting: Mailed survey instruments were distributed in classroom settings at 30 institutions having Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)-accredited athletic training programs. Patients or Other Participants: Undergraduate students and educators (n = 598: 373 women, 225 men; mean age = 23.5 +/- 6.3 years) from 25 CAAHEP-accredited athletic training programs. Main Outcome Measure(s): We used the Ethics Position Questionnaire and the Dilemmas in Athletic Training Questionnaire to compute participants' mean composite individual moral philosophies (idealism and relativism) and ethical decision-making scores, respectively. Three separate 2 (sex: male, female) x 3 (education level: underclass, upper class, educator) between-subjects factorial analyses of variance using idealism, relativism, and ethical decision-making scores as dependent measures were performed. Results: Respondents reported higher idealism scores (37.57 +/- 4.91) than relativism scores (31.70 +/- 4.80) (response rate = 83%). The mean ethical decision-making score for all respondents was 80.76 +/- 7.88. No significant interactions were revealed. The main effect for sex illustrated that men reported significantly higher relativism scores (P = .0014, eta(2) = .015) than did women. The main effect for education level revealed significant differences between students' and educators' idealism (P = .0190, eta(2) = .013), relativism (P < .001, eta(2) = .050), and ethical decision-making scores (P < .001, eta(2) = .027). Tukey honestly significant difference post hoc analysis indicated that educators possessed lower idealism scores (36.90 +/- 5.70) and relativism scores (29.92 +/- 4.86) and higher ethical decision-making scores (82.98 +/- 7.62) than did students. Conclusions: Our findings do not support changes in athletic training ethics education practices to address sex-specific needs. However, when opportunities occur for students to reason using different ethical perspectives, educators should be aware of their students' and their own moral philosophies in order to optimally facilitate professional growth.

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Journal of Athletic Training





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