Speaking Up: An Ethical Action Exercise.


PROBLEM Health care professionals encounter situations in which they need to speak up to prevent harm, ensure better care, and/or address unprofessional behavior. Speaking up is often difficult, especially for medical students; nonetheless, it is a skill students must practice, so they can better advocate for patients. APPROACH The authors have designed an ethical action exercise and incorporated it into a required bioethics course that meets concurrently with third-year clerkships. The exercise requires students to speak up to try to correct, resolve, or improve one situation during a clerkship. The exercise involves overt action, but students determine how, where, and when to act. OUTCOMES In 2013-2014, 111 students at State University of New York Upstate Medical University completed the exercise. Most spoke up about situations in which they thought that some aspect of patient care could be improved (n = 78; 70%); others spoke up when they perceived unprofessional conduct (n = 32; 29%). Although most students found speaking up to be difficult (n = 96; 86%), speaking up often led to improved care (n = 46; 41%). As a result of completing the ethical action exercise, two students reported becoming less likely to speak up in the future, whereas 64 students reported becoming more likely. NEXT STEPS Going forward, the authors want to address three issues: the development of lasting habits, the role of culture, and connections with other initiatives to improve care.

DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002047

Cite this paper

@article{Dwyer2017SpeakingUA, title={Speaking Up: An Ethical Action Exercise.}, author={James Dwyer and Kathy Faber-Langendoen}, journal={Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges}, year={2017} }