Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety (GAPS) Toolkit

Preparing for Ethical Choices Abroad

Preparing for Ethical Choices Abroad

The GAPS Student Module prepares students to respond to requests from providers and patients abroad that pose ethical issues. In brief, here are steps students can take to ensure they are not placed in unethical situations:

  • Choose a quality program that sets appropriate conditions and tasks.
  • Make sure the providers and other employees in the volunteer setting know the students' level of training.
  • Make sure that the patients understand the appropriate role of the student, which should match their training level.
  • Talk to other students in the program about the ethical, legal, and safety issues of providing patient care without training.
  • Engage other students to talk as a group to the host organization and providers about appropriate tasks. Then support each other in refusing inappropriate requests.

"Hands-Off" vs. "Hands-On"

Students need to understand that getting inappropriate "hands-on experience" is not a way to get into a health program. In fact, admissions committees in health profession programs are concerned about students behaving inappropriately and not understanding scope of practice and ethical and professional boundaries.

"Understanding our own limits as physicians is key to safe and effective clinical practice. Staying within those limits is a sign of respect for our patients and for the profession. Applicants who appear to lack this kind of self-awareness and insight are frightening to admissions committees and they are likely to be unsuccessful, even if other features of their portfolio are very strong." - Robert Witzburg, MD Associate Dean and Director of Admissions, Boston University School of Medicine

Student talking with kids