STUDENT PAPER Ethical Challenges in Medical Community Internships: Perspectives from Medical Interns in the Philippines

Quantity 21/1, June 2019, pp 141 – 147


See more: Ethical problems in the philippines

Aimee Lorraine C. Capinpuyan and Purple Thaddeus D. Miguel


The Philippine group internship program, initially created to complement the nation’s thinning well being workforce whereas offering coaching to scholar docs, poses a authorized and moral problem for medical interns. Inherent traits of this system—resembling monetary disparities and burdens, the shortage of supervision by senior docs, the competence of scholar docs, and quick rotation occasions—can predispose interns to trigger hurt to the sufferers and communities they serve. As presently designed, the internship program has the capability to go away interns unsupervised, prone to authorized ramifications, consistently questioning the correctness of their interventions, and perpetually straddling conflicting position virtues. By failing to make sure that the group internship program has applicable safeguards in place, the federal government not solely jeopardizes the welfare of interns but in addition threatens the standard and continuity of care that sufferers and communities obtain, probably violating their proper to the very best attainable commonplace of well being. One medical college just lately began a novel internship program that would handle the problems talked about.


Via the Philippine group internship program, medical interns are posted at small-town well being facilities in choose—sometimes poor—communities, the place they act as junior physicians. This system’s intentions are noble, tackling the shortage of physicians in underserved communities whereas offering coaching to medical interns. Nevertheless, inherent traits of this system pose moral and authorized challenges for medical interns. Throughout this system, distraught interns discover themselves able that would threaten the rights of the sufferers they encounter. We look at such conditions utilizing examples gathered from our personal group internship experiences and people of our friends. We conclude by providing our insights on a probably improved system just lately carried out by the Ateneo Faculty of Drugs and Public Well being.

The Philippine group internship

Within the Nineteen Seventies, the group internship was established as a element of the Complete Group Well being Program within the Philippines.1 Interns had been required to rotate in accredited group websites underneath the direct supervision of college members. Whereas the unique program was finally phased out within the Eighties, the inclusion of community-based medical coaching turned a proper requirement for medical faculties nationwide in 1994. Throughout this time, the Affiliation of Philippine Medical Faculties, the nationwide group that supervises and screens internship packages, created pointers for implementing the group internship. Based on the rules, the internship program might tackle the next types: “a proper group well being program of the hospital, a program of the native well being division or well being middle, a faculty well being program, a well being program of NGOs, civic, and non secular teams, and different inventive group well being packages.”2 Whereas there’s flexibility in implementation, the commonest format is a two-month rotation for interns.

The moral complexities of medical internships in communities

“Internship yr,” which is a medical scholar’s remaining yr of formal coaching, has been discovered by a number of research to be fraught with moral and authorized challenges. One examine discovered 5 particular challenges: telling the reality, respecting sufferers’ needs, stopping hurt, managing the bounds of 1’s competence, and addressing the efficiency of others that’s perceived to be inappropriate.3 One other examine discovered that the commonest points skilled by college students had been professionalism, confidentiality, the doctor-patient relationship, knowledgeable consent, and the doctor-peer relationship.4 Additional, the mistreatment and abuse of medical college students by extra senior employees can even add to those moral challenges.5 Within the Philippines, these challenges appear to be magnified in mild of a number of inherent limitations of the group internship program.

Inequalities and monetary burdens

Medical interns expertise pressures from a wholly new work setting, as they transition to their new group internship in circumstances the place systemic inequalities topic their poor sufferers to dire well being outcomes. This makes the group internship program a troublesome scenario for each interns and the communities they serve.

Based on a 2015 World Financial institution examine, greater than one-fifth of the Philippine inhabitants, or 22 million folks, lives under the nationwide poverty line.6 Roughly 8.2 million folks can’t afford primary meals necessities. Financial inequities make poor Filipino households prone to employment shocks (resembling job losses and decrease wages) and health-related shocks (resembling sickness, demise, and unplanned pregnancies).7 Furthermore, poor households typically have restricted entry to primary providers, resembling sanitation, clear water, electrical energy, and family property, together with communication and mobility instruments.6 Consequently, poor communities have weak bargaining energy in terms of accessing high quality well being care. For lack of higher choices, communities are keen to simply accept any extra well being useful resource that comes their means, together with medical interns nonetheless in coaching.

The interns, then again, normally work with out pay at their assigned group well being facilities. In lots of circumstances, college students pay out of pocket for each day transportation prices, medical gear and drugs for his or her well being facilities, and packages they want to implement. Consequently, the standard of care interns deliver to their communities might rely upon their private monetary capability.

Lack of supervision and position fashions

In lots of iterations of the group program within the Philippines, interns are assigned to an area government-sponsored well being middle. Though well being facilities do have common docs of their make use of, the thinning workforce in native well being networks forces senior physicians to divide their time amongst a number of neighboring well being facilities. Consequently, it’s not unusual to have days the place group interns are left to their very own gadgets within the well being facilities. Even on days when physicians are current, the quantity of help that interns obtain from them is contingent on the person doctor’s willingness to show, in addition to his or her workload. When interns are lucky sufficient to be assigned to a well being middle with an accommodating advisor, circumstances are reviewed and classes are shared relating to circumstances seen. Sadly, it’s extra typically the case that overworked senior physicians are unable to be the position fashions that group interns want them to be.

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In situations the place there’s a lack of supervision from a senior doctor, the intern could also be compelled to tackle the position of major well being care supplier regardless of missing a license to apply. This poses a authorized quandary, as solely those that have handed the Doctor Licensure Examination are legally allowed to apply drugs, in keeping with the Philippine Medical Act of 1959.8 Interns—medical college students who’ve accomplished the primary 4 years of medical research—are legally allowed to apply drugs solely throughout epidemics or nationwide emergencies, and even then solely with particular authorization by the Secretary of Well being.8 Moreover, the shortage of supervision has been discovered to probably introduce pointless hurt to sufferers led to by systematic errors, an incapability to display compassion, and the supply of futile remedy.9 Therefore, the shortage of supervision within the situation of the Philippine group internship might compromise the security of sufferers, in addition to that of the bigger group.

Competence of scholar physicians

Interns’ lack of expertise and data additional enhances the chance of the internship program introducing hurt to the communities being served. One instance is the rotation system that’s in place in most internship packages all through the Philippines. Beneath this technique, teams of interns rotate via totally different fields of medication, together with group drugs, over the course of this system. For instance, a gaggle could also be in inside drugs one week, surgical procedure the following month, radiology after that, and so forth, till all rotations are accomplished. By the top of the yr, each group would have skilled and discovered from every rotation. If an intern is assigned a rotation schedule wherein group drugs is final, then the intern brings lots of the new abilities, experiences, referral networks, and data from previous rotations. Nevertheless, if the intern attracts a rotation wherein the group program is first, and she or he will not be supervised, then the intern is left to depend on data and abilities from medical college, which can be inadequate for the circumstances encountered in the neighborhood.

To deal with data gaps all year long, interns typically develop referral programs amongst internship teams. These networks additionally come up from interns’ concern of being ridiculed by senior consultants and their lack of entry to supervising physicians. Interns seek the advice of with fellow interns as an alternative of senior docs, probably resulting in the propagation of false data or inappropriate administration. Worse but, faulty practices that aren’t caught early on might even propagate via the following set of interns, on condition that it has turn out to be a customized for fourth-year medical college students, earlier than commencing their internship yr, to show to outgoing interns for notes and ideas.

Lastly, group interns typically prescribe drugs regardless of missing a medical license. In such circumstances, interns write the well being middle physician’s title and license quantity on the prescription beside the intern’s title. Some docs entrust their title stamps to the well being middle interns for the categorical function of prescribing medication of their absence. Whereas formal research haven’t been performed on the security of this apply, it’s ethically and legally questionable to permit a medical scholar to prescribe drugs.

Gaps in continuity of care

Continuity of care will be outlined as a seamless transition amongst well being providers and suppliers over time.10 Making certain continuity of care is crucial for high quality care, however its significance is essentially unrecognized within the Filipino medical internship program. The present setup whereby interns rotate throughout fields, spending solely two months at a time at group well being facilities, might result in problems and opposed reactions attributable to the prescribed remedy going unnoticed.11 Just like the case of short-term volunteerism, this set-up fails to realize an optimum continuity of care, characterised by common contact between suppliers and the communities they serve.

An instance of this may be seen in our personal expertise. We as soon as had an aged affected person who would typically go to the well being middle for a refill of his hypertensive drugs. He had a particularly hoarse voice that made him obscure, however when probed for particulars about it, he would repeatedly insist, “I’m tremendous, I’m tremendous. Nothing is flawed with me.” It was obvious that he merely needed to obtain his drugs and depart. We later discovered from the well being middle’s common physician that this man was an previous affected person of hers who had been recognized with suspected laryngeal most cancers. He wanted pressing hospital consideration however had at all times refused to hunt such care out of concern of being intubated. This data was essential in guiding our plans when he adopted up a month later—we had been capable of counsel him relating to his situation, specializing in his hospital-related fears, with the objective of permitting him to make a extra knowledgeable choice relating to his administration. It was lucky for us that the well being middle’s physician had been round on the time; different interns, particularly those that work as well being facilities’ solely docs, know the battle of managing continual sufferers with an unclear medical historical past.

One method to alleviate the results of the rotation system is to have the outgoing group interns correctly endorse their sufferers to the incoming group. Endorsements (also called “handovers” or “handoffs”) are when the outgoing workforce of caregivers relates essential patient-specific data to the incoming workforce. Caregiver-to-caregiver endorsements are essential in affected person care, and ineffective handoff communication has been discovered to be the commonest reason for opposed hospital occasions.12 Accordingly, in rural settings, efficient handover practices have been discovered to considerably enhance perceptions of affected person security.13 Nevertheless, the truth is that affected person endorsements not often occur as interns rotate via their assigned fields. The excessive quantity of sufferers seen at group facilities makes endorsing every affected person who wants long-term care a tedious and time-consuming process. As an alternative, interns are likely to depend on affected person information, which might differ in high quality and infrequently lack essential knowledge.

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Coming from clerkship yr, wherein college students are centered on fulfilling tutorial necessities and dealing with ward work, interns confront an advanced scenario. Suddenly, the intern experiences overlapping roles: a well being skilled and a learner, a scholar and a member of the workforce. These coexisting expectations create tensions and may lay the bottom for ethical misery.

This phenomenon will be defined within the mild of conflicting position virtues.14 As scholar docs, interns are anticipated to be benevolent, compassionate, truthful, simply, humble, and self-sacrificing.15 As medical learners, they’re anticipated to prioritize cooperativeness, curiosity, dedication to at least one’s training and growth, accountability, and motivation.16 As staff (of the hospital or well being middle), they’re anticipated to emphasise effectivity, flexibility, competence, and dedication to the job.17 Interns wish to do “good,” however the definition of “good” varies relying on the position. Usually, traits inherent to the group internship program make it troublesome for interns to concurrently and equally uphold these many virtues, creating an inside battle that precludes them from carrying out the target of the group internship program. Taking these roles collectively, the group intern is predicted to be environment friendly, competent, and benevolent. Nevertheless, practising in extraordinarily resource-deficient settings with excessive numbers of sufferers and little to no doctor help can forestall interns from fulfilling this imaginative and prescient. Even within the presence of standard docs, interns can nonetheless lack position fashions who exemplify the form of humility, compassion, and braveness wanted to successfully apply in resource-limited settings. Thus, all the expertise causes pointless stress that would negatively have an effect on interns’ psychological well being, their notion of what it means to be a doctor, and the standard of care they supply to the group. As interns full their research, they’re left to wonder if they had been certainly capable of uphold any of their roles through the group internship program.

Within the grand scheme of nationwide well being supply, the Philippines, as a celebration to the Worldwide Covenant on Financial, Social and Cultural Rights, is obligated to uphold the rights of its constituents to realize “the very best commonplace of bodily and psychological well being.”18 Moreover, the nation’s Republic Act No. 11223 (extra generally referred to as the Common Well being Care Act) states that it’s the “coverage of the State to guard and promote the correct to well being of all Filipinos and instill well being consciousness amongst them.”19 For coverage makers unaware of the aforementioned shortcomings of the group internship program, these internships seem to supply a magic bullet for strengthening the nation’s weak medical workforce and producing glorious future physicians. As well as, this system appears to be aligned with the federal government’s mandate to enhance well being outcomes for communities. Nevertheless, as described earlier, in its present iteration, the group internship program poses the chance of hurt to sufferers and interns alike. By sustaining the flawed design of this system, the federal government is failing to uphold its authorized obligation to offer well being for all.

The Philippines’ group internship program has the potential to offer much-needed care the place well being inequities thrive, in addition to to hone the talents of the nation’s future physicians. Nevertheless, as presently designed, it additionally has the capability to go away interns unsupervised, prone to authorized ramifications, consistently questioning the correctness of their interventions, and perpetually straddling conflicting position virtues. When the federal government fails to make sure that the group internship program has applicable safeguards in place (for instance, an sufficient variety of senior physicians, compensation for interns, and correct referral programs), it jeopardizes not solely the welfare of interns but in addition the rights of communities. For sufferers and their communities, the design of the internship program threatens the standard and continuity of care that they obtain, probably violating their proper to the very best attainable commonplace of well being.

Redefining the group internship program

As mentioned, medical college students’ group internship experiences will be laden with moral and authorized challenges stemming from the federal government’s failure to make sure sufficient help for interns. In flip, the scenario of the interns and the circumstances wherein they work have the potential to hurt sufferers within the communities being served. As we anticipate the federal government to take measures to enhance the nationwide curriculum, one medical college is presently testing a restructured group internship program that, if profitable, might present a fascinating various for different medical colleges.

The Ateneo Faculty of Drugs and Public Well being, established in 2012, just lately created a program to deal with these challenges. Recognizing the immense potential of well being facilities to function efficient tutorial settings for medical training, the college partnered with the Quezon Metropolis native authorities to create a novel group observe for fifth-year medical college students known as the Group-Enhanced Internship Program (CEIP). Beneath the CEIP, fifth-year medical college students rotate between a associate well being middle and the college’s associate hospitals for 12 months. On the well being middle, their fundamental process is to run a group clinic the place specialty consultations are made accessible via the presence of consulting college from varied fields of medication.

This system innovates on the same old group internship format in 3 ways. First, interns are supplied fixed supervision via the common presence of consulting college within the well being middle. In contrast to in most group internships, wherein interns are left to their very own gadgets at group well being facilities, this methodology ensures that interns perform secure and applicable affected person administration. Second, CEIP interns spend a complete of six months of their group as an alternative of the same old two. The longer period of this system permits for nearer follow-up of sufferers and minimizes the necessity for affected person handoffs. Third, CEIP interns’ hospital rotations alternate with their group rotations on a month-to-month foundation, not like the same old program wherein interns spend two consecutive months in a group and ten consecutive months in a hospital. The alternating group and hospital months within the CEIP enable interns to complement the data and abilities discovered from hospitals with that discovered from their communities, and vice versa. On this means, the CEIP might provide a solution to the moral challenges described earlier, for its fixed supervision of interns, longer program period, and alternating hospital-community rotations goal to advertise high quality and secure affected person care, with the potential long-term impact of upholding communities’ rights to high quality well being care. Nevertheless, as of writing, the brand new program is just on its tenth month of operations, with a pioneer cohort consisting of simply 12 interns rotating at one well being middle. The college administration plans to proceed this system for 2 extra cohorts earlier than conducting an analysis.

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In conclusion, medical college students’ completion of their group internship will be fraught with moral and authorized points. Interns—with their a number of and typically conflicting roles as clinicians, learners, and staff—are positioned in a fancy moral place once they apply drugs in poor and weak communities. The shortage of help for interns perpetuates these issues, consequently threatening the rights of the sufferers they serve. The Ateneo Faculty of Drugs and Public Well being’s CEIP might present a fascinating various to the present format of group internships given its longer program period and extra intensive supervision scheme, however in mild of the novelty of this system, no strong suggestions can but be made. If profitable in assuaging the restrictions of the present group program, the federal government might take into account implementing the CEIP design, or a model of it, in all medical colleges with the hopes of upholding its constituents’ proper to the very best attainable commonplace of well being.

Aimee Lorraine C. Capinpuyan, BSc Hsc, is a medical intern on the Ateneo Faculty of Drugs and Public Well being, Pasig, Philippines, the place she is enterprise the Group Enhanced Internship Program

Purple Thaddeus D. Miguel, BSc HSc, MD, MBA, is an unbiased well being coverage researcher with focus in well being financing

Please handle correspondence to Purple Thaddeus D. Miguel. E-mail: [email protected]

Competing pursuits: Aimee Capinpuyan is presently enrolled as a medical intern on the Ateneo Faculty of Drugs and Public Well being. Purple Miguel acquired his physician of medication from the identical college.

Copyright © 2019 Capinpuyan and Miguel. That is an open entry article distributed underneath the phrases of the Artistic Commons Attribution Non-Industrial License (, which allows unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and copy in any medium, supplied the unique creator and supply are credited.


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