Virtue in emergency medicine

Acad Emerg Med. 2009 Jan;16(1):51-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00315.x. Epub 2008 Dec 6.


At a time in which the integrity of the medical profession is perceptibly challenged, emergency physicians (EPs) have an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to both their patients and their practice through acceptance of a virtue-based ethic. The virtue-based ethic transcends legalistic rule following and the blind application of principles. Instead, virtue honors the humanity of patients and the high standards of the profession. Recognizing historical roots that are relevant to the modern context, this article describes 10 core virtues important for EPs. In addition to the long-recognized virtues of prudence, courage, temperance, and justice, 6 additional virtues are offered unconditional positive regard, charity, compassion, trustworthiness, vigilance, and agility. These virtues might serve as ideals to which all EPs can strive. Through these, the honor of the profession will be maintained, the trust of patients will be preserved, and the integrity of the specialty will be promoted.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Emergency Medicine / ethics*
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Trust
  • Virtues*