Knowledge, confidence, and attitudes regarding medical ethics: how do faculty and housestaff compare?

Acad Med. 1995 Nov;70(11):1038-40. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199511000-00024.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Bioethical Issues
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Decision Making
  • District of Columbia
  • Education, Medical
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Internship and Residency
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Mental Competency
  • Teaching
  • Terminal Care