A Descriptive and Exploratory Study of the Ethics Program at Austin State Hospital: The Common Elements of the Program and Managers' Beliefs About the Purpose and Usefulness of the Program
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Challenging ethical dilemmas are part of the daily lives of the managers at Austin State Hospital. What resources are currently available at the Austin State Hospital to assist the staff with these ethical dilemmas? The purpose of this research is to explore the extent to which compliance, moral reasoning to guide employees in making ethical decisions or guiding ethical behavior, and encouraging employees to act as moral agents are present in the Austin State Hospital ethics program including: the ethics code, the ethics training, and the ethics committee. Working hypotheses are utilized to explore the elements and nature of the ethics program. The second research question addresses the managers' beliefs about the purpose and usefulness of the ethics program at the Austin State Hospital. Descriptive categories are used to conceptualize the managers' beliefs about the purpose and usefulness of the program.
The research is both exploratory and descriptive. A case study model is employed to analyze the ethics program. The ethics code is explored by document analysis. Interviews are conducted with the chair of the ethics committee and the trainer for the ethics training. The code, the committee, and the training are explored to determine if compliance with laws and rules, utilizing moral reasoning, and encouraging staff to act as moral agents is present. A survey is administered to thirty three of the managers to describe their beliefs regarding the purpose and usefulness of the ethics program.
When faced with clinical, business, and even issues of life and death, the managers at Austin State Hospital do have access to a well designed ethics program. The ethics code, the committee and the training program have elements of compliance, moral reasoning, and encouragement to act as moral: agents. The managers believe that the training program and the committee are the most useful elements of the program. In general, the managers believe that utilizing moral principles to guide decisions and shape ethical behavior are the main purpose of the program. A large number of the managers believe that the purpose of the program is to encourage employees to act as moral agents. The research does demonstrate that the managers at Austin State Hospital do have a substantial array of resources available to them for assistance when faced with ethical dilemmas.