Siðrænar dygðir og læknismenntun

Dissertation, (2020)
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In this MA-thesis in applied ethics a conceptual basis or framework is examined for teaching programs in medicine to be able to enhance strengths of character, skills and virtues – clinical maturity of future healthcare professionals. Concepts of virtue ethics and human understanding are sought from Aristotle‘s rich theory of ethics and applied theories from philosophy, psychology, education and medicine over the last 50 years to construct a conceptual framework of virtue and character education. As input to that construction, a multifactorial quantitative study was done in the form of a questionnaire about strengths of character among medical students and medical doctors. This research revealed those virtues and skills that participants consider most important in the character of the ideal physician and the results were compared to a similar British study of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. The comparison indicated the existence of common human ethical traits which are reflected in the strong correlation of the professionals’ choice of the most important strengths of character and their consequent ranked order, between the two countries. Other parts of this study indicate that virtues and skills merge in functional clusters during the process of decision-making and work of medical professionals aiming for good ends. However, the high frequency of perceived stress at work among Icelandic physicians is reported to partially subdue their moral character at work. In summary, from the structured concepts in the above-mentioned theories and learned outcomes from these two studies, a suggested conceptual framework for virtue and character education in medicine is presented. The major challenges to its implementation are lack of formal education in its conceptual basis among teachers and lack of reliable ways to evaluate results among students. The evidence points to the importance of virtue and character education and that nurturing teaching environment is needed in medical universities and clinical setting of healthcare facilities, for it to flourish.

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