Lessons learned from implementing a responsive quality assessment of clinical ethics support

Eva M. van Baarle, Marieke C. Potma, Maria E. C. van Hoek, Laura A. Hartman, Bert A. C. Molewijk, Jelle L. P. van Gurp

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Background: Various forms of Clinical Ethics Support (CES) have been developed in health care organizations. Over the past years, increasing attention has been paid to the question of how to foster the quality of ethics support. In the Netherlands, a CES quality assessment project based on a responsive evaluation design has been implemented. CES practitioners themselves reflected upon the quality of ethics support within each other's health care organizations. This study presents a qualitative evaluation of this Responsive Quality Assessment (RQA) project. Methods: CES practitioners' experiences with and perspectives on the RQA project were collected by means of ten semi-structured interviews. Both the data collection and the qualitative data analysis followed a stepwise approach, including continuous peer review and careful documentation of the decisions. Results: The main findings illustrate the relevance of the RQA with regard to fostering the quality of CES by connecting to context specific issues, such as gaining support from upper management and to solidify CES services within health care organizations. Based on their participation in the RQA, CES practitioners perceived a number of changes regarding CES in Dutch health care organizations after the RQA: acknowledgement of the relevance of CES for the quality of care; CES practices being more formalized; inspiration for developing new CES-related activities and more self-reflection on existing CES practices. Conclusions: The evaluation of the RQA shows that this method facilitates an open learning process by actively involving CES practitioners and their concrete practices. Lessons learned include that "servant leadership" and more intensive guidance of RQA participants may help to further enhance both the critical dimension and the learning process within RQA.
Original languageEnglish
Article number78
JournalBMC medical ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Clinical ethics support
  • Learning network
  • Responsive evaluation
  • Responsive quality assessment

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