A Listening Tour: Pediatric Clinical Ethics Rounds

J Clin Ethics. 2020 Spring;31(1):27-41.


A two-year rounding program was initiated by the clinical ethics consult service (CECS) to improve ethics program integration and utilization at our 323-bed tertiary care pediatric hospital. Two critical variables were identified for improvement. One: identification of cases in which an ethics consult would have benefited clinical care but was not requested. Two: earlier detection of cases for which the medical team and/or family eventually sought ethics consultation but that worsened during the delay. Improvement relied on eliciting dialogue with the CECS by the medical team and/or patients and families, when it had either not occurred before or had not occurred when it would have been most beneficial. The indirect nature of the improvements sought posed a specific challenge: how does one elicit such action from others? How does a small program with less than one full-time equivalent position that is dedicated to clinical ethics, and little funding, effect such a process change across an organization with more than 600 physicians, 2,000 nurses, 600 medical students, and thousands of other clinicians and staff? The following accounts such an effort and the accompanying two-year study undertaken to document the results. The data presented demonstrate improvement in both identified variables: increased overall utilization of the CECS and earlier detection of cases in which the CECS is typically engaged.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Ethics Consultation*
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics* / ethics
  • Physicians