Brief Report -The Current State of Biomedical Ethics Education Among Anesthesiology Training Programs: A Call to Arms

J Educ Perioper Med. 2019 Apr 1;21(2):E621. eCollection 2019 Apr-Jun.


Background: Anesthesiology presents unique challenges to the discipline of biomedical ethics, as providers must practice ethical principles under high-stress and time-restricted conditions. The American Board of Anesthesiology has recognized the value of ethical competence through incorporation of ethics-based scenarios on the Advanced and Applied Exams. Accordingly, we performed a needs assessment and gap analysis of the current state of biomedical ethics training among anesthesiology residency programs.

Methods: A survey instrument was formed to assess existing ethics curricula and to identify perceived interest and barriers to integrating a formal ethics curriculum into residency training. The survey was distributed online to anesthesiology residency program directors in the United States.

Results: The survey was distributed (N = 150) with a response rate of 53% (n = 79). Half the respondents reported providing formal ethics training in their program, which averaged 3.8 ± 1.6 h/year. Only 58% of respondents agreed that their residents were competent at managing biomedical ethical dilemmas upon graduation. The lack of a preestablished curriculum, knowledgeable faculty, and time were the most cited barriers to providing ethics training. Most respondents expressed interest in using a standardized ethics curriculum if offered by a credible academic society and believed it should be a requirement during training.

Conclusion: Our needs analysis is reflective of considerable interest among anesthesiology program directors to use a uniform biomedical ethics curriculum for trainees, with a majority (n = 53, 68%) endorsing it as a proposed requirement for graduation.

Keywords: Bioethics; anesthesia; anesthesiology; education; ethics; residency.