Background: It has been suggested that faculty members' inadequate knowledge of and unfavorable attitudes toward ethics may present barriers to effective education in ethics for house officers.
Method: To test this hypothesis, the authors administered a questionnaire assessing the knowledge, confidence, and attitudes regarding ethics of the 73 house officers and 73 full-time faculty members in the Department of Medicine at the Georgetown University Medical Center in 1992-93. Statistical analysis of the responses was performed using chi-square, two-tailed t-tests, and linear regression.
Results: Fifty-five house officers (75%) and 57 faculty (78%) responded. The knowledge scores were similarly low for both groups (53% correct for the faculty and 50% for the house officers). However, the faculty were significantly more confident than the house officers regarding ability to address ethical issues (mean ratings of 3.9 vs 3.4 on a scale from 1, very low, to 5, very high; p = .0001). Seventy-five percent of the faculty and 65% of the house officers believed that ethics training should be mandatory during residency.
Conclusion: The attitudes of the faculty per se do not appear to represent a barrier to teaching ethics. However, the gap between the faculty members' confidence and knowledge could interfere with their abilities to model and teach ethics to house officers.