Bioethics Service-Learning Practicum

Students in the MA-Bioethics Program are required to complete a 150-hour on-site experience that demonstrates the application of theoretical bioethics knowledge to a practical environment. The practicum is a service-learning experience, which means that students will engage in projects and activities that help the host organization meet its mission and goals.

Most students complete the practicum in one semester, averaging 10 hours on site/week. The practicum is offered in the Spring and Summer semesters.

While we make an effort to match student interests to the available practicum sites on an individual basis, the following list will demonstrate some of the sites and experiences previous students have enjoyed.

Grady Photo

Grady Health System

by Charlie Craig, Class of 2013

This practicum explores the role of a professional medical ethicist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, a place where the vast majority of patients are poor with either no health care insurance or only government insurance through Medicaid and Medicare. Most of the patients enter the hospital through the emergency room. Challenges abound in realizing that simple vision: applying medical technology to care for sick and injured people…

Emory University Medical School and Morehouse School of Medicine use Grady as a teaching hospital, and like many urban hospitals, it is a sought after staging ground for residents from the best schools nationwide. Grady is a 950-bed hospital with six out-patient clinics and a 288-bed nursing home. There are thousands on staff – physicians, nurses, technicians, and other health-care professionals equipped with the latest medical technology to diagnose, treat and often cure patients. Grady is considered one of the best medical centers in Georgia.

It won’t take long for the student to learn the medical ethicist at Grady is faced with the full range of clinical ethics questions and treads a fine line that runs between hospital and patient advocate. Although paid by the hospital, the medical ethicist is not there to reduce costs and protect the hospital and medical staff from liability. The ethicist also is not an advocate for the patient. Patients and their families decide what’s best for them. The ethicist helps them understand their choices…

At the conclusion of this practicum, a student will understand the role of a medical ethicist at Grady and will have a better idea of the knowledge, skills and temperament required to pursue such a career. By witnessing first-hand an ethicist’s interactions with medical professionals and patients, students have a unique opportunity gain a greater appreciation for the ethical challenges involved in these encounters.

Shadowing the medical ethicist provides valuable insight into the day-to-day work of this profession and into the enormous ethical conundrums that exist at Grady, and any hospital. For the uninitiated who may view the physician-patient encounter like a waltz with dancers gliding hand in hand, the reality is much different. The encounter is not scripted and the dance is not choreographed. Physicians and patients too frequently step on each other’s toes and stumble. The medical ethicist is there to help untangle them.