Teaching ethical issues in health care: Incorporating a philosophy of care into undergraduate health programs at the University of the Western Cape
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CONTEXT: There is a growing emphasis on ethics education in undergraduate and postgraduate curricula of the health professions. Approximately five hundred and eighty two health science students participate annually on an interdisciplinary core course i.e. Introduction to Philosophy of Care (IPOC). OBJECTIVES: To describe in detail the IPOC course and to determine the students' perceptions and experiences of the course. METHODS: A survey was conducted and variables were rated on a 5-point Likert scale. Students also completed an open ended questionnaire to assess their learning and participation in the small group work. RESULTS: Lectures and small group work (28%), assignments (25%) and independent community visit (15%) were rated as the preferred method of teaching. Two thirds (77.5%) were satisfied with the course objectives, 83.4 % reported that they could apply the information and skills learnt to other courses, 81.9% stated that the course made them reconsider many of their former attitudes about care and that they gained a good understanding of the interdisciplinary partnership in care (87.8%). DISCUSSION: Developing a philosophy of care is an important aspect of a progressive health professional education. Staff development in the field of ethics is crucial to develop expertise and sustain programmes. The faculty has overcome the attitudinal, administrative and logistical barriers associated with interdisciplinary teaching and learning. However, to implement interdisciplinary programmes in the final year, where professional identity and turf is most powerful remains a challenge. CONCLUSION: Students clearly support the IPOC course as an important interdisciplinary core course in their undergraduate health professional education.