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Ethics Rounds for Veterinary Teams: A Key Wellbeing Support

Room B

1 CE Hour

Presented By

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Ethically challenging situations are commonly encountered in veterinary settings. These can lead to moral stress. When resolved in alignment with our values, they can lead to moral comfort. However, when they transgress our moral values, this can lead to moral distress or moral injury. Moral distress and moral injury are risk factors for mental health concerns including suicide. They may also lead to role and career attrition, a significant concern in light of the global shortage of personnel within the veterinary sector. Ethics rounds were established in human healthcare settings to provide a psychologically safe space to discuss ethical challenges, to improve ethical decision making and to improve the “moral climate” of workplaces (Gibson & Quain, 2022). Unlike clinical ethics committees, which are often empowered to impose “top-down” ethical decisions based on ethical expertise, ethics rounds take a “bottom-up” approach, incorporating perspectives of all team members who deliver health care (Silén, Ramklint, Hansson, & Haglund, 2014).


Like morbidity and mortality rounds, ethics rounds are a confidential, structured, team- based discussion. Instead of patient morbidity and mortality, the focus is on ethical challenges. Ethics rounds have the potential to identify barriers to ethical decision making, which can then be addressed. This may benefit veterinary patients and clients, as well as veterinary team members. Potential benefits from ethics rounds include benefits to individuals (appreciating challenges from the perspectives of others, increased awareness of different values or ways of seeing challenges, feeling of validation or being “heard,” improved decision making) and organisations (improved ethical climate, identification of repeat challenges which can form the basis of policies) (Quain, Mullan, & Ward, 2022).


However, like many interventions, ethics rounds are not without risks. Importantly, recounting experiences which led to moral distress may exacerbate moral distress. For this reason, it is important that ethics rounds are carefully facilitated. Ethics rounds have been employed in a variety of veterinary settings, including teaching hospitals, private practices, NGOs and shelters, governments and regulators. During this session, we will outline the approach to facilitation of ethics rounds in both the United States and Australia (for private practice and academic settings) and discuss outcomes of ethics rounds. In addition, we will discuss how ethics rounds may help mitigate moral distress and contribute to veterinary team member wellbeing.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the kinds of ethical conflicts and dilemmas that arise in veterinary medicine.

  • Explain the structure and goal of ethics rounds for veterinary teams.

  • Evaluate the impact that ethics rounds can have on wellbeing in veterinary medicine

CE Policy
This course is fiscally sponsored by International Association of Veterinary Social Work . There may be potential biases or conflicts of interest inherent to this relationship, and it must be disclosed to participants. These conflicts of interest have no bearing on the course content and have been resolved.
Anne Quain
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