Is the current state of medical ethics education having an impact on medical students?
Medical education prepares medical students as they transition from the classroom to clinical setting in caring for patients through education in the sciences, pharmacology, and medicine basics—but does it leave room for the courses that lack scientific basis, such as medical ethics? Current research has shown that medical students do not place much emphasis on medical ethics. This leads to skepticism and wariness for medical students to speak up about their concerns if faced with an ethical situation. The “hidden curriculum” that is seen in many medical schools has a large impact on medical students’ impressions of how to deal with ethical cases in the hospital. The unintended influence many physicians have on medical students appears to have a strong impact on the development of students’ character. There are ample opportunities for students to engage ethical cases and theories while in school. Research has shown that only a moderate increase in the amount of hours medical students spend over their four-year education has a dramatic increase in their understanding of ethics in the workplace. Understanding theories, analyzing case studies, and holding small-group reflections are a few examples of ways to increase student exposure to medical ethics. It would be difficult to create a universal curriculum for medical schools to incorporate medical ethics more integrally, but these options provide segues into increasing their exposure at a critical time in their career development.