Consortium Ethics Program Continues to Educate Health Care Professionals

The Consortium Ethics Program (CEP) has been educating frontline health care professionals across western Pennsylvania for over 19 years. It began in 1990 through a generous grant from the Vira I. Heinz Endowment and has grown into a self-sufficient program that has remained a strong entity in the education of health care ethics for almost two decades. Rosa Lynn Pinkus, PhD, is the CEP's director, and Andrew E. Thurman, JD, MPH, is the CEP's interim associate director.

Co-sponsored by the Division of General Internal Medicine and the Center for Bioethics and Health Law, the CEP is the regional health care ethics network in western Pennsylvania. Over 400 frontline health care professionals, including administrators, physicians, nurses, social workers, risk managers, pastoral care providers, and payer utilization reviewers, have been educated by the CEP.

The program currently has 81 CEP representatives from 31 member institutions. The representatives form a network to share ethics resources and experiences in a cross-effective manner. The member institutions include acute care hospitals, third-party payers, and facilities for rehabilitation, long-term care, and home health care. Among the members are eight UPMC hospital and health facilities. Because of the collaborative and cooperative nature of the CEP, membership crosses all lines of affiliation in the health care environment.

Although the CEP has recently lost some of its membership because of negative reimbursement trends, it continues to attract new members, and it continuously updates its educational programs to match the changing health care environment. This successful effort is due in large part to faculty members Robert Arnold, MD, David Barnard, PhD, Elizabeth Chaitin, DHCE, Gary Fischer, MD, Mark Wicclair, PhD, and Gordon Wood, MD, MSCI-all of whom over the years have generously contributed their time, energy, and wisdom to teaching for the CEP. The success is also due in part to the efforts of Jody Stockdill, the CEP program administrator, and Sarah Sudar, the CEP communications specialist.

New initiatives of the CEP include developing the educational programs for its third-party payer members, Highmark Inc. and UPMC Health Plan; creating specialized education for UPMC Community Provider Services; and offering skill-building workshops for a new team of ethics consultants at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Initiatives also include working with the University of Pittsburgh Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences to evaluate the effectiveness of ethics education delivered via the CEP model and to develop online ethics education courses for faculty members in the Division of General Internal Medicine.

With these new endeavors and a rich history, the CEP has the vitality to last well into the future and remain a leader of health care ethics education for frontline professionals.

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