‘All by myself’: interns’ reports of their experiences taking consent in Irish hospitals
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Obtaining patient consent is a fundamental process in surgical practice and is integral in respecting and safeguarding patient autonomy. It has been reported that the task of consenting patients frequently lies with junior doctors, who have the least experience of the procedure.
To examine the role of interns in the consent process in the Irish context as well as to identify their concerns.
A 12-point questionnaire, assessing interns’ experience with surgical consent, was circulated to interns in three Irish university teaching hospitals based in different geographical locations. Interns who had never worked in a surgical team were excluded from the analysis.
Out of 104 interns, 60 interns returned questionnaires. Of these, 58 (96.7%) had consented a patient for a surgical procedure. Forty-four interns (73.3%) had never been supervised by a senior doctor. Of the 58 interns who had obtained surgical consent, six interns (10.3%) reported knowledge of ‘all’ the steps of the procedure. Only five interns (8.6%) reported that they were aware of all the risks of the procedures and 34 interns (58.6%) reported they knew ‘most’ of the risks. Twenty-five interns (43%) reported that they had, at some point, been explained the risks of the procedures by a senior colleague.
The majority of interns reported that they had taken consent for a procedure without full knowledge of the procedure and its complications. Supervision or instruction from a senior colleague was reported by a minority.
KeywordsInformed consent Interns Risk disclosure Surgical consent
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