A randomized trial of teaching bioethics to surgical residents

Am J Surg. 2005 Apr;189(4):453-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2004.08.066.


Background: Bioethics education has been recommended as a formal component of surgical residency training. The best method for teaching bioethics to residents is unclear. We compared the effectiveness of a standardized patient (SP)-based seminar to a traditional seminar format for teaching bioethics to surgical residents.

Methods: We randomized 31 first- and second-year surgical residents to either a SP-based seminar or a traditional seminar on informed consent. Immediately after the seminars, we evaluated resident performance in patient encounters on informed consent by using an objective structured clinical examination. Their knowledge of informed consent was also evaluated by using a 20-question short-answer written examination immediately after the seminars and then 3 weeks later.

Results: Twenty-nine residents completed the study; two withdrew because of an emergency. The SP seminar group had lower SP interview scores on the 22 item checklist compared with the traditional seminar group (57% versus 66%; difference -9%; 95% confidence interval [CI], -17% to -1%, P=.03). The SP seminar group also had lower knowledge scores on the questionnaire immediately after the seminar (60% versus 73%; difference -13%; 95% CI, -21% to -4%, P=.003). The difference in knowledge scores persisted at 3 weeks (41% for the SP group, 59% for the traditional seminar group; difference -18%; 95% CI, -29% to -7%; P=.002).

Conclusions: A traditional seminar was superior to an SP-based seminar for teaching informed consent to surgical residents.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bioethics / education*
  • Canada
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Probability