How Medical Students Learn Ethics: An Online Log Of Their Learning Experiences,

A team of students in medical school are learning through social media, in order to better understand medical ethics.

How Medical Students Learn Ethics: An Online Log Of Their Learning Experiences,

By Sari Kamin

Every fall semester, medical students across the nation face the daunting decision to either go into internal medicine or emergency medicine — medicine devoted to patients who are already sick and clearly unable to advocate for themselves. They need to make the best decisions for their patients and their own lives, making ethical decisions that balance their patients’ well-being and individual needs against their university’s long-term needs.

Dr. Gregg Maxwell, emergency medicine resident at Emory University School of Medicine and a past chair of the American College of Emergency Physicians, says, “The right decisions in a complex system such as emergency medicine often fall on the shoulders of emergency physicians, and a growing number of internal medicine students and residents are committed to advocacy and helping facilitate the influence of a grassroots emergency physician community.”

A new survey of the collaborative MTBCE training held over the past five years in partnership with Emory reveals just how far medical students have come in ensuring a balance between patient need and research and financial return, on behalf of Emory and the patients they serve. This isn’t just a good thing for the students. It’s also good for the patients they serve.

Angered by financial demands on faculty and students, colleagues at Emory have pushed for affordable tuition and more affordable housing. Improved health insurance, coupled with improved education opportunities and flexible work schedules, are allowing them to spend more time and energy working to make a difference. With more time to focus on patients’ needs, they are better positioned to fill the gap created by gaps in preventive and community-based care.

Ten years ago, emergencies accounted for only 5% of the ~600,000 emergency department visits made at Emory each year, with 22% of patients coming to the ER for minor illnesses like the common cold and diarrhea. The number of ER visits grew as more people were diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, and heart failure, and more individuals were admitted with painful leg ulcers, breathing disorders, and digestive issues like diverticulitis and gastritis.

“Increased demand pushed the number of patients requiring treatment into our larger emergency department,” said Jacob A. Layman, MD, MPH, MPH, EMT who also leads the CTRI Urban Health Institute.

But just like any other profession that addresses the increasing complexity of our day-to-day lives, doctors realize there is a growing disconnect between the high value patients place on their well-being and the minimal time they dedicate to their care. To help medical students and residents better understand how we can best align our clinical and research efforts to meet patients’ health care needs and the public good, Emory has been working with an online partnership with mental health tech company Co2key to create a training log providing medical students and residents with the tools to practice a new “academic evidence-based” approach to the problem.

Using a guiding model developed by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), professional staff and peer-reviewed medical journals, the program involves learning how to apply the principles of evidence-based medicine to the face-to-face, day-to-day practice of emergency medicine in order to help solve some of the biggest barriers to realizing the extraordinary impact of emergency medical services.

The program combines simple and robust online learning tools with professional training on current and future issues through professional and peer-reviewed journals. And, as part of an effort to make student-driven changes to the demands on medical students and residents, the log links to a resource page providing students with scholarships for the growing shortage of nurses in emergency medicine.

“Emory is committed to a culture of equity and inclusion, including the representation of underserved populations, which is critical to ensuring that medical students and residents receive the best training possible,” said Gregg Maxwell, MD, MPH, MPH, EMT who leads Emory’s laboratory and Emory’s student track in the Urban Health Institute and also helps spearhead the Campus Rural Health Innovation Network.

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