, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 183-189
Date: 09 Jan 2014

Hidden Ethical Dilemmas in Psychiatric Residency Training: The Psychiatry Resident as Dual Agent

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Abstract

In addition to learning about confidentiality, civil commitment, informed consent, and other ethical issues, psychiatry residents must deal with less visible ethical dilemmas that arise from the training process itself. Residents grapple with three inherent conflicting duties between their dual roles as physician and learner, as physician and supervisee, and as physician and employee of a training institution. These conflicts must be negotiated at a time of high stress, when residents are plagued with self-doubt, fear, fatigue, and other vulnerabilities that can lead good doctors to make ethically dubious decisions. While such conflicts and stressors are common to residency training in most specialties, they may be heightened in psychiatric residency. This paper proposes a model for understanding covert elements of ethical decision making during psychiatric residency and recommends strategies training programs can use to help residents navigate an ethical minefield.

The author thanks Stephen Dinwiddie, M.D. for assistance with the conceptualization of this article and Thomas A.M. Kramer, M.D., Michelle Pent, M.D., Valerie Davis Raskin, M.D., Lainie Friedman Ross, M.D., Ph.D., and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.