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J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2014 Spring;34(2):112-22. doi: 10.1002/chp.21228.

Professionalism and maintenance of certification: using vignettes describing interpersonal dilemmas to stimulate reflection and learning.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Physicians do not always agree on "rules" governing behavior in professionally challenging situations. Little is known about contextual factors that influence physician approaches in these situations. We explored the individual-, social-, and societal-level factors that physicians consider when responding to 2 common professional dilemmas. We were particularly interested in knowing the extent to which physicians engage in self-reflection as a result of responding to the vignettes.

METHODS:

A cross-sectional Web-based survey was sent to a random sample of 396 physicians, prompting them to respond to scripted professional dilemmas.

RESULTS:

A total of 120 physicians responded, yielding a response rate of 32.6%. Physicians responded to these dilemmas in highly variable ways, negotiating a complex array of contextual factors in their decisions. Interacting factors involving individual-level physician (eg, worry, guilt), patient (eg, nature of medical condition or relationship with patient), and social/societal (eg, policy, what peers or colleagues do) were important drivers in physician responses. Qualitative analysis revealed that several interacting themes guide physician approaches to professional dilemmas: patient welfare; types of patients; political, ethical, or legal issues; guiding principles; values; rules; and habits.

DISCUSSION:

Physicians negotiate a complex set of individual-, social-, and societal-level factors in response to professional dilemmas. This finding has important implications for the promotion and assessment of professional behavior in practicing physicians. Reflecting on scenarios may be an opportunity for physicians to learn about how and why they make decisions in difficult situations.

KEYWORDS:

decision making; professionalism/ethics; reflective practice; self-assessment; survey research

PMID:
24939353
DOI:
10.1002/chp.21228
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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