Clinical Bioethics Practicum Revamped

The newly revamped Clinical Practicum, taught by KIE Senior Clinical Scholar Dr. Carol Taylor, was anticipated to be a valuable part of studying bioethics at Georgetown. The graduate students in philosophy would have access to a state-of-the-art university hospital with expert faculty and medical resources. They would have the opportunity to do clinical rotations and conduct interviews with nurses and doctors in key hospital units that commonly face challenging ethical issues, including the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the Adult Intensive Care Unit, Oncology, Transplants, and Psychiatry. They also would participate in weekly seminar meetings and discussions with leading medical and healthcare experts.

As anticipated, the spring 2012 Clinical Practicum was a huge success! Graduate students — mostly from Georgetown University’s Department of Philosophy — were provided first-hand experience with challenging ethical issues as they arose in their different hospital units such as the NICU and psychiatry. Laura Guidry-Grimes describes her experience in this way: “Thanks to the practicum, I was able to discuss pressing ethical issues with doctors, residents, and nurses. By observing their interactions with patients, I gained useful insight into the operations of a hospital and different approaches to the clinician-patient relationship. I learned about many ethically intriguing cases that have deepened my appreciation for the ethical complexities and nuances in medical practice. I feel better prepared to work with medical practitioners in the future, and this experience has enriched my academic path at Georgetown and inspired me to do further research within clinical bioethics.”

The graduate student participants also benefitted from the weekly seminar meetings that were expertly led by Carol Taylor. Most of these meetings also featured guest speakers on important bioethical issues, including Drs. Arthur Koppelman, MD, Siva Subramanian, MD, and Michael Gallagher, MD, on ethical decision-making involving newborns; Sheila Zimmett, JD, BSN, on compliance and research ethics; Dr. Allen Roberts, II, MD, on advance directives and medically futile treatments; and Dr. Dennis McIntyre, MD, on distributing scarce resources. The serious yet casual discussions around a conference table allowed for meaningful interaction between the participants and the medical and healthcare experts. Chong Un Choe, another participant, provided these observations: “The quality of discussion during the seminar meetings was at the highest level. The guest speakers shared from their years of experience in encountering various bioethical issues and imparted to us practical insights and tips on particularly challenging problems and what has worked for them in addressing these problems. Our understanding of bioethics seemed to have greater practical application after gleaning wisdom from Carol Taylor and these other experts.”

The spring 2012 clinical practicum was extremely beneficial for this class of participants and likely will continue to be a valuable part of studying bioethics at Georgetown for graduate students long in the future.