The formal and informal surgical ethics curriculum: views of resident and staff surgeons in Toronto Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Understanding what staff surgeons think surgical trainees should learn and the ethical issues that trainees need to manage can strengthen surgical ethics education. METHODS: Participants were recruited from the 15 surgical specialty and subspecialty programs at the University of Toronto. Semistructured interviews and focus groups were conducted with 13 ethics coordinators from the surgical staff and 64 resident trainees. Data were analyzed qualitatively using modified thematic analysis. RESULTS: All coordinators and trainees felt that ethics education was an important component of surgical training. Real cases, varying teaching methods, and teachers with applicable clinical experience were valued. Trainees identified intraprofessional and interprofessional conflict, staff behavior perceived to be unethical, and their own lack of experience as challenging issues rarely addressed in the formal ethics curriculum. CONCLUSIONS: Ethics education is highly valued by trainees and teachers. Some ethical issues important to trainees are underrepresented in the formal curriculum. Staff surgeons and senior residents are practicing ethicists and role models whose impact on the moral development of residents is profound. Their participation in the formal curriculum helps less experienced junior residents realize its value.


  • Howard, Frazer
  • McKneally, Martin F
  • Upshur, Ross
  • Levin, Alex V

publication date

  • February 2012