About the Project
When Dr. Jeff Kerrie and Karen Shufelt launched the Clinical Ethics Lunch and Learns in late-2019, they couldn’t have known that the COVID-19 pandemic was right around the corner. Just a few months after beginning these lunchtime conversations around practical ethical issues in healthcare, in-person meetings became impossible and the discussion switched to virtual. Despite missing out on the opportunity to eat lunch in-person with colleagues, the virtual sessions reported even higher attendance, with at times over 100 individuals logging in. Coordinating and organizing the events behind the scenes has been possible through the involvement of Deb Harver, Interim Manager of Ethics, Jill McQuary and Erin Craig.
“COVID brought up so many ethical issues”, says Dr. Kerrie, “it was important to give people a place to talk about these, and hear from their colleagues if they were facing something similar. It helped to address some of the moral distress which can occur because people were able to walk away and know they weren’t alone.”
Dr. Kerrie was thrilled that the turnout has remained interdisciplinary throughout, saying, “We’ve had doctors and nurses of course, and also physios, social work, occupational therapists, medical leadership, and patients and family members.” These family members and patients were sometimes already active within the health authority, and sometimes just found their way into the meeting through unknown referrals. In all cases, their presence added an important dimension to the conversations.
Some of the issues raised during these discussions have found a larger platform. For instance, when the role of pharmaceutical companies in medicine was raised in the Lunch and Learns, the attention it received prompted the team to support a one-hour debate during Island Health’s yearly Ethics Week between a member of the medical staff and a pharmaceutical company representative, moderated by a well-known researcher from the therapeutics initiative.
The monthly conversations continue, and the focus remains on discussing a case or cases that is raised by an attendee. There are clear benefits for those in attendance: “From people who have brought cases, they’ve said it was so helpful to have a debrief, to walk it through with different people and specialties,” says Dr. Kerrie.
The group plans to build more a formal evaluation approach into the series, as well as work with other Island MSAs to ensure participation up and down the island. For Dr. Kerrie, this initiative “has been the best part of working in ethics over the past few years”. Congratulations to the team for creating this much-needed opportunity to connect about ethics!