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Assessing Ethics Knowledge: Development of a Test of Ethics Knowledge in Neonatology

Journal title
The Journal of pediatrics
Publication year
Cummings, C. L.; Geis, G. M.; Feldman, H. A.; Berson, E. R.; Kesselheim, J. C.

OBJECTIVE: To develop and validate the Test of Ethics Knowledge in Neonatology (TEK-Neo) with good internal consistency reliability, item performance, and construct validity that reliably assesses interprofessional staff and trainee knowledge of neonatal ethics. STUDY DESIGN: We adapted a published test of ethics knowledge for use in neonatology. The novel instrument had 46 true/false questions distributed among 7 domains of neonatal ethics: ethical principles, professionalism, genetic testing, beginning of life/viability, end of life, informed permission/decision making, and research ethics. Content and correct answers were derived from published statements and guidelines. We administered the voluntary, anonymous test via e-mailed link to 103 participants, including medical students, neonatology fellows, neonatologists, neonatology nurses, and pediatric ethicists. After item reduction, we examined psychometric properties of the resulting 36-item test and assessed overall sample performance. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 27% (103 of 380). The test demonstrated good internal reliability (Cronbach alpha = 0.66), with a mean score of 28.5 +/- 3.4 out of the maximum 36. Participants with formal ethics training performed better than those without (30.3 +/- 2.9 vs 28.1 +/- 3.5; P = .01). Performance improved significantly with higher levels of medical/ethical training among the 5 groups: medical students, 25.9 +/- 3.7; neonatal nurses/practitioners, 27.7 +/- 2.7; neonatologists, 28.8 +/- 3.7; neonatology fellows, 29.8 +/- 2.9; and clinical ethicists, 33.0 +/- 1.9 (P < .0001). CONCLUSIONS: The TEK-Neo reliably assesses knowledge of neonatal ethics among interprofessional staff and trainees in neonatology. This novel tool discriminates between learners with different levels of expertise and can be used interprofessionally to assess individual and group performance, track milestone progression, and address curricular gaps in neonatal ethics.

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