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J Gen Intern Med. 2000 Jul;15(7):503-8.

Supporting the moral development of medical students.

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Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA.


Philosophers who studied moral development have found that individuals normally progress rapidly in early adulthood from a conventional stage in which they base behavior on the norms and values of those around them to a more principled stage where they identify and attempt to live by personal moral values. Available data suggest that many medical students, who should be in this transition, show little change in their moral development. Possibly, this relates to perceived pressures to conform to the informal culture of the medical wards. Many students experience considerable internal dissidence as they struggle to accommodate personal values related to empathy, care, and compassion to their clinical training. Educational interventions that positively influence this process have established regular opportunities for critical reflection by the students in small groups. Other interventions include faculty development to enhance role modeling and feedback by clinical faculty. The author espouses more widespread adoption of these educational interventions.

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