Is becoming a clinical ethicist right for me?

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How to become a Clinical Ethicist

Becoming a clinical ethicist in the United States typically involves a combination of education, training, and practical experience. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to pursue a career as a clinical ethicist:

  • Bachelor's Degree: Start with a bachelor's degree in a related field. While not always mandatory, a strong foundation in philosophy, ethics, or a related discipline can be beneficial. Some clinical ethicists may have backgrounds in law, healthcare administration, or other disciplines.
  • Pursue a Master's or Advanced Degree: Pursue a master's degree or advanced degree in bioethics or a related field. Several universities and institutions offer specialized programs in bioethics that provide in-depth knowledge and skills required for the role of a clinical ethicist.
  • Gain Experience: Acquire relevant experience in healthcare or ethical decision-making. This could include working in healthcare settings, participating in ethics committees, or engaging in related volunteer work.
  • Participate in Ethics Committees: Get involved in hospital or healthcare institution ethics committees, if possible, to gain practical experience and exposure to real-world ethical dilemmas. This can be done during or after your master's program.
  • Consider Certification: While certification is not always required, obtaining certification from a relevant professional organization, such as the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), can enhance your credentials. The ASBH offers the Certified Healthcare Ethics Consultant (CHEC) certification (see below).
  • Clinical Residency or Fellowship (Optional): Consider pursuing a clinical residency or fellowship in bioethics or clinical ethics. These programs provide hands-on experience and mentorship under the guidance of experienced clinical ethicists.
  • Teaching and Research Opportunities: Engage in teaching or research opportunities in bioethics. This could involve teaching ethics courses, conducting research on ethical issues in healthcare, or contributing to scholarly publications.
  • Apply for Positions: Once you have the necessary education, training, and experience, start applying for positions as a clinical ethicist. Positions may be available in hospitals, healthcare systems, academic institutions, or other healthcare organizations.
  • Professional Development: Engage in ongoing professional development and continuing education to stay current in the field. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars, and consider joining professional organizations related to bioethics.

Certification can enhance your credentials and demonstrate a commitment to professional standards. Here are some certifications that clinical ethicists may consider:

  • Certified Healthcare Ethics Consultant (CHEC): Offered by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), the CHEC certification is designed for individuals who provide ethics consultation in healthcare settings. Eligibility criteria include relevant education and experience.
  • Certified Clinical Ethicist (CCE): The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) offers the CCE certification for clinical ethicists. It involves passing an examination and meeting specific educational and experiential requirements.
  • Healthcare Ethics Consultant-Certified (HEC-C): The HEC-C certification is provided by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). It is geared towards individuals who provide ethical consultations in healthcare settings, including clinical ethicists.
  • Certified IRB Professional (CIP): Offered by the Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R), the CIP certification is designed for individuals involved in the ethical review of research involving human subjects. It demonstrates expertise in research ethics and the oversight of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs).
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator (CHPCA): While not specific to ethics, the CHPCA certification is relevant for clinical ethicists specializing in end-of-life care. Offered by the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC), it is intended for administrators and managers in hospice and palliative care settings.