The Hidden Ethics Curriculum in Two Canadian Psychiatry Residency Programs A Qualitative Study

Mona Gupta, Cynthia Forlini, Keith Lenton, Raquel Duchen, Lynne Lohfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: The authors describe the hidden ethics curriculum in two postgraduate psychiatry programs.

METHODS: Researchers investigated the formal, informal, and hidden ethics curricula at two demographically different postgraduate psychiatry programs in Canada. Using a case study design, they compared three sources: individual interviews with residents and with faculty and a semi-structured review of program documents. They identified the formal, informal, and hidden curricula at each program for six ethics topics and grouped the topics under two thematic areas. They tested the applicability of the themes against the specific examples under each topic. Results pertaining to one of the themes and its three topics are reported here.

RESULTS: Divergences occurred between the curricula for each topic. The nature of these divergences differed according to local program characteristics. Yet, in both programs, choices for action in ethically challenging situations were mediated by a minimum standard of ethics that led individuals to avoid trouble even if this meant their behavior fell short of the accepted ideal.

CONCLUSIONS: Effective ethics education in postgraduate psychiatry training will require addressing the hidden curriculum. In addition to profession-wide efforts to articulate high-level values, program-specific action on locally relevant issues constitutes a necessary mechanism for handling the impact of the hidden curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-599
JournalAcademic Psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date15 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Canada
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Professionalism
  • Psychiatry
  • Qualitative Research
  • Journal Article


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