Individuals that work in the medical ethics field typically begin their career as physicians, health administrators, and nurses. They then go on to enroll in a graduate program with a major in medical ethics. To make a career in the field of medical ethics, it would be great to earn a doctorate degree or a master’s degree in clinical ethics. Aside from that, it’s also important that you gather some experience as an intern before starting your journey as a medical ethicist. Here’s how you can become a medical ethicist.
What Does a Medical Ethicist Do?
Patients and physicians may disagree when it comes to choosing a treatment. This might challenge their values. This is where ethical issues arise in the healthcare sector. A medical ethicist is someone with training and certification to offer guidance to both the doctor and the patient.
They offer consultation on various legal, policy, and ethical issues that might arise from time-to-time. They also address concerns of healthcare industry professionals and the consumers of the industry – the patients.
What Does a Medical Ethicist Typically Do?
Medical ethicists typically work as professional consultants within the ethics committee of a hospital or care center. These professionals usually have an interdisciplinary background. They are familiar with a broad array of concepts, procedures, and practices that are integral to the healthcare industry.
For example, whether it is ethically correct to withdraw life support is both a clinical and an ethical question. Most leading hospitals discuss with their in-house review committee or ethics committee when there is an ethical dilemma. That’s because even trained healthcare professionals have challenges with decision making at times. A clinical ethicist should ideally know that the emotions run high in a hospital environment and it is not always possible for even the most experienced doctors to maintain dispassion.
Clinical ethicists help patients, their families, doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators to analyze and resolve the ethical dilemmas arising in a hospital. Whenever there’s a new technology in the global healthcare community, it is the clinical ethicists who are to decide whether the patients should receive the technology. They also have a say in deciding who has to pay for the costs of the new technology. The ethical values and standards are ever-evolving and a medical ethicist has to take many things into consideration. This includes the quality of treatment, privacy of patients, religious sentiments, and values and the use of health funds.
Are You the Right Fit for the Position of a Medical Ethicist?
Medical ethicists have very different personalities from other types of healthcare professionals. If you are an enterprising individual, you are ambitious, adventurous, energetic, assertive, and confident, you are a natural fit for the position of a medical ethicist.
Keep in mind that you might have to work in a wide variety of healthcare institutions and organizations, including hospitals, health crisis task forces deployed in conflict-ridden areas, academic institutions, medical insurance companies, government organizations, regulatory committees, and even in research centers. A medical ethicist typically spends a large share of their working hours in clinical settings, working closely with healthcare practitioners and their assistants. You may enjoy a flexible work schedule, although you need to prepare to respond to emergencies.
What Kind of Courses and Programs You Should Enroll In?
Healthcare experience is a must for making a career in clinical ethics. However, before that, you need to have a degree in philosophy and law to apply for applied ethics jobs. All the healthcare jobs require some kind of licensure from respective state boards. Most medical schools in the US offer majors in medical ethics and fellowship programs. Bear in mind that medical ethics is an interdisciplinary study that involves medical, legal, and research professionals.
How much can you earn as a medical ethicist? The average medical ethicist earns in the ballpark of $98,803 in the United States (data as of January 2020). The pay scale depends on various factors, including educational qualifications, relevant experience, and additional qualifications. San Francisco and Washington are the two US cities with the greatest number of high-paying clinical ethicist jobs. You can also pursue a career in clinical education, clinical outcomes analysis, and clinical outcome management.