Reflections from a Clinical Ethics Intern - Baylor College of Medicine Blog Network

Reflections from a Clinical Ethics Intern – Baylor College of Medicine Blog Network

This is the fourth in an ongoing series by Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy summer interns, undergraduate and graduate students interested in emerging ethical issues.

“How to become a clinical ethicist” is a phrase I’ve Googled more times than I’m willing to admit. My interest began after I attended a lecture on bioethics at a national student leadership conference during my freshman year of high school. The speaker presented the complexities of medical decision-making as well as the four main pillars of bioethics: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. I was instantly intrigued.

Over the years that followed, I tried to familiarize myself with the various guidelines and recommendations that career advice websites have to offer on what a clinical ethicist looks like. No amount of Googling, however, could have given me the answers and confidence I found during my eight-week clinical ethics internship at Baylor College of Medicine.

The bulk of the internship activities took place in the Neurological, Cardiovascular and Cardiac Intensive Care Units at Houston Methodist, where my fellow intern and I shadowed various faculty members on hospital visits, family and conversations with each patient’s care team.

Each morning began with visits to the hospital or check-ins with the care provider who had consulted ethics. These meetings provided information about the patients that we then used while conversing with their families. Most of our conversations with families involved values ​​elucidation, where ethicists focused on identifying the patient before they became disabled in order to better understand the kinds of health decisions they would likely make for themselves. -same.

Outside of the hospital, I also spent my time as an intern attending various meetings and participating in mentored research with faculty at the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy. Each week, I observed and participated in transfer meetings with the team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and those at Houston Methodist, where the duty ethicist shared information on active cases for his colleague who would replace him. for the week. Other meetings included center tapings, journal club discussions, bi-weekly debriefings, the Fellowship Seminar Series, and Texas Ethics Consortium meetings.

These activities allowed me to interact with ethicists from various backgrounds such as medicine, law, philosophy, theology and sociology. As part of my research, I was paired with Dr. Janet Malek and Dr. Trevor Bibler based on my interest in the field. Through their guidance, I was able to dive deep into genetic modification, parental obligation, reproductive ethics, and the impact of spirituality on medical decision-making.

Each day was different from the previous, but I found comfort in asking as many questions as possible and saying yes to everything. I scheduled one-on-one meetings with numerous faculty members to discuss my academic and career path, attended the hospital whenever possible, and requested to attend meetings that were not listed on the itinerary given to me at the beginning of my internship. Two things have remained true during my time at Baylor, namely that I have had access to a wealth of knowledge and an unwavering commitment that everyone at the center has to invest in the future of the field.

Before coming to Baylor, of course, I had expectations and assumptions about the experiences I was going to have. From there, I was very surprised at how fast the clinical aspect of labor can be and was amazed at the thorough and thoughtful analyzes that I was able to play a part in. My prior understanding of clinical ethics had led me to believe that the field was extremely fractured, so I was pleasantly surprised by the environment of camaraderie and collaboration into which I was immediately welcomed.

The professors and fellows I have worked with have repeatedly reminded me that I am not alone in my confusion and uncertainty about what lies ahead, reassuring me that there are always people to support me. all the way. They taught me that it’s okay to ask questions, and that cold emails are a lot more common (and less scary) than I thought.

My colleagues and my experiences at Baylor have taught me that you learn the most from the people around you. As a student, I am aware that most of my learning about my career field will take place outside of the classroom, which I had not experienced before this internship. You can learn a lot from every person you meet if you listen to their stories, ask them insightful questions, and watch their eyes light up as they solve a problem or talk about their interests.

I entered this internship program hoping to solidify my career goals and engage in exciting conversations with people with whom I share interests. While I believe I have achieved these goals, I am also leaving after learning a lot about who I am, who I want to be, and how I am going to get there.

Clinical ethicists give voice and consideration to people who cannot share or articulate their own wishes. I think the significance of this appeals to Gen Z individuals like me, who want to have a meaningful impact on the world around them.

Emily Peugh, clinical ethics intern, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine; rising senior at California State University, Long Beach

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