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Scholar to Lead Revamped Clinical Bioethics Practicum

For graduate students wanting to get their feet wet in clinical bioethics, the new and improved Clinical Practicum, taught by Senior Research Scholar Carol Taylor, will be offered this spring.

After completing orientation and identifying areas of interest in the fall, students will wade into the Georgetown Hospital system to do two six-week clinical rotations with mentors chosen by Taylor. “This is where Georgetown is really lucky,” says Taylor, “because the Center for Clinical Bioethics has affiliated faculty appointments in so many areas—NICU, PICU, Adult ICU, Hemo-oncology, Transplants, Psychiatric care, Nursing Pastoral Care, and Social Work,” to name a few. And as a founding member and former director of the Center for Clinical Bioethics, perhaps no one is better suited to establish and facilitate these mentor relationships than Taylor. Past participants in the practicum have successfully gone on to find jobs in healthcare ethics in the corporate sector. Frank Chessa, for instance, now serves on national transplant committees and directs clinical ethics at the Maine Medical Center.

The kind of immersion students will undergo in the practicum dictates a hands-off approach by the Practicum’s facilitator. As a result, the challenge, which revamped course is designed to meet, is to properly prepare students with an understanding of the hospital system and lingo so they can fare well in turbulent situations they’ll encounter. Students will be encouraged to take the medical school’s “mini med school” course in order to better understand the basic body systems and their functioning; in addition, online HIPAA training will be made available for all students enrolled in the practicum. The preparation will give students more facility with the healthcare setting from the very beginning of the spring semester.

Once students are knee-deep in clinical rotations, Taylor will facilitate weekly seminar meetings to ensure that students are progressing in the direction of the goals they set for themselves. They will examine ethics case studies, present works in progress, and host experts in the field during the semester. Topics to be treated include psychiatric capacity determinations, healthcare law, and long-stay hospital care.

Taylor’s passion for teaching clinical bioethics stems from a desire to “make healthcare work for people who need it.” “In far too many cases it doesn’t,” she remarks, “and clinical bioethics creates the moral space and time for people to reflect on who we’re becoming by virtue of choices we make everyday and how we’re affecting people.” As Taylor sees it, medical professionals shouldn’t have to be heroic to make the right choices. Clinical bioethicists work to create a vision of what it means for people to be good physicians, good nurses, good administrators, and then foster a culture that will allow people to realize that vision.