Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big News!

One of the things that has been keeping me from posting new entries here is a little project I've been working on for the past 4 or 5 months. Today, I received an email from the chair of UW's Medical History and Ethics department that opened with,
We are happy to endorse the plan for an ER Ethics course as you outline it, and look forward to providing it as an MHE offering.
Whoop Whoop!

I mean, "My, what a fine outcome. I cannot wait to see this effort come to full fruition." Or something.

The bottom line is that back in March, I was in the emergency department admitting a patient to the medicine floor when I ran into an emergency attending who I knew as a sophomore medical student back in what they call the day. We knew each other to be writers, so we caught up about each others' activities. She told me about a cool medical humanities 'zine she was writing a proposal for (since funded!). I told her about my gig at The Differential. And she mentioned an idea for teaching an ethics class based on cases from the ER.

Schreech!!! My mind and body did a double take.

I don't exactly recall what condition the patient I was admitting had, so will take some narrative privilege (and play the statistics) to report that I thought: "the guy with hepatic encephalopathy can wait a few more minutes." In truth, it was 3AM, we had already examined him and written orders and I was checking lab results in the fishbowl (which we call the central command center of the ER) before getting a couple hours of sleep. As usual, sleep takes the back seat.

The bottom line is that sleep was sacrificed for this project more than once. The opportunity to apply what has always been an extra-curricular (or at best co-curricular) interest in ethics to my chosen profession was amazing. As the chips lie today, this winter I'll be co-teaching (with the emergency medicine attending) a class to first through fourth year medical students called "Ethics in the ER." The curriculum is discussion oriented, is based on numerous actual cases, will employ a blog/discussion board and require a small amount of reading from medical humanities and ethics sources.

I think the curriculum we're developing is a unique approach in medical ethics education, and are excited about testing it and reporting our experiences for others to learn from and improve. I am also looking forward to a few more energized late nights turning theory into practice.


Noel Hastings said...

Congratulations Thomas! This is excellent news and a great idea!

BenMc said...

That sounds like a great class. If you have some ideas you'd like to post I may be able to try them out on natural sciences seniors in our Capstone class ... if you don't mind the borrow!