Proliferation of ethics programs in healthcare organizations has occurred without rigorous evaluation. This qualitative study explored what makes an ethics program effective from the perspective of 15 practising ethicists across Canada. Objectives were to: describe how practising ethicists define ethics program effectiveness, identify evaluation strategies, and identify critical success factors.
Ethicists defined effectiveness as: 1) meeting standards; 2) making a difference; and 3) delivering value for investment. To evaluate, ethicists assessed: ethics program activity data, qualitative feedback, relevant accreditation results, peer review, and pre- and post- results. Ethicist competencies and attributes, organizational understanding of, and support for, the ethics program, and a community of practice were critical success factors.
Effectiveness emerged as a multi-dimensional concept. Findings provide a preliminary outline of what an ethics program evaluation framework might include and inform practice standard development, ethicist training programs, and organizational oversight for ethics programs.