Upstate News

March 10, 2002
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

County correctional facility nurses to receive bioethics training

Onondaga County Health Department nurses serving inmates at the Justice Center and the Onondaga County Correctional Facility at Jamesville will undergo six hours of bioethics training. The program is designed by the Institute for Ethics in Health Care (IEHC) and funded by a $5,950 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation.

“These nurses serve a daily census population of more than 800 inmate patients and through the course of their experience confront especially difficult medical and ethical problems,” said James Traver, M.D., a faculty member of IEHC who will direct the bioethics training program. “We believe this bioethics training will effectively enhance the nurses’ ability to discuss and analyze ethical problems that may arise such as confidentiality, rationing and truth-telling, and ultimately improve patient care for this special patient population.”

IEHC faculty member and registered nurse Barbara Fero said the proposed training makes good sense. “Nurses are on the front lines of medical care and therefore need to address ethical issues promptly and professionally,” she said. “Hospital nurses receive ongoing education about the ethical issues in medicine; this program now makes that education available to these special nurses.”

A small pilot project with nurses at the Justice Center in 1998 proved that the concept was both useful and appreciated, according to Traver. “Nurses were able to articulate their particular ethical concerns with a high degree of professionalism and appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues with understanding coworkers,” he said.

Forty nurses will participate in six hours of training. In small groups, the nurses will be encouraged to discuss cases of personal interest with the goal of becoming comfortable discussing bioethical issues. In addition, the training will provide nurses with options on how to approach issues associated with ethical dilemmas. Training is expected to begin this spring.

Traver said he is not aware of any existing programs that provide training in bioethics to nurses in correctional facilities. “We see this program as a model for other counties and perhaps the state to use in bringing bioethics training to other health care workers in the correctional system.”

Central New York Community Foundation board member Sharon Brangman, M.D., said her organization decided to fund the training program because of the benefit it provides the community. “I think this is money well spent,” she said. “Any training program that will enhance and strengthen the role nurses play, especially in this critical area of correctional facility health care, is of vital important to our community.”

IEHC, which is developing the bioethics training, was organized in 1995 to provide educational, advisory and research services to individuals and organizations that experience ethical issues and problems related to health care. It is the only independent organization in Central New York providing bioethics consultation. Sponsoring members of the IHEC are SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse University, the Onondaga County Medical Society, Loretto, Le Moyne College, Hospice of Central New York, Community General and Crouse hospitals.

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