Background: Prior research has explored reasons why health care providers may or may not choose to seek an ethics consultation. Although low-quality communication is evident in many ethics consultations, it is unknown whether poor communication in clinical settings is related to health care providers' requests for ethics involvement. Objective: To assess the relationship between self-reported ratings of health care providers' inter- and intraprofessional communication and ethics consultation requests. Method: This cross-sectional survey was conducted using a self-administered questionnaire of physicians and nurses in six intensive care units at one academic medical center in the United States. The questionnaire assessed perceptions about requesting ethics consultations and how health care providers perceive communication. Results: Two hundred sixty-two participants (228 nurses and 34 physicians) responded to the survey (response rate 55%; 59% for nurses and 41% for physicians). Requests for an ethics consult were positively associated with perceived quality of interprofessional communication (r =.13, p <.05), but perceptions of the number of ethical dilemmas that occur on participants' units each month were negatively associated with the perceived quality of intra-professional communication (r = −.17, p <.01). Conclusion: The relationship that was hypothesized between perceived poor communication and increased number of ethics consultations was not borne out by these data. Indeed, we found the opposite; these finding suggests that good inter- and intraprofessional communication may promote the use of outside resources, such as ethics, when they are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-239
Number of pages5
JournalAJOB Empirical Bioethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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