Introduction: Optometry has a strong history of a commitment to professional ethics. In recent years, as optometry has expanded its scope of practice and assumed a more prominent role in the health care of the nation, there has been an interest in bringing a new broader application of ethical principles to the attention of the profession and its practitioners. The current trend amongst health care professional schools is to include ethics into the curriculum. There is a need for optometry to become a part of this movement. It is the goal of this study to address the ethical attitudes of current students in optometry school, which may show a need for ethics to be included into the optometric curriculum.
Method: Surveys consisting of twelve questions were administered to students at various schools and colleges of optometry. Questions asked addressed ethical situations and dilemmas that practitioners are faced within the optometric profession. The data collected were analyzed to determine any differences in responses between gender, between those with some or no previous ethical training, and between schools and colleges of optometry.
Results: Analysis of the data showed that there were some significant differences in responses to ethical encounters by gender, but no significant differences between those with different levels of previous ethical training or between optometry schools. Males tend to respond with a more "legal" approach, while females responded more "with" a gut feeling response.
Conclusion: The results of this survey showed that current students of the optometric profession do have similar attitudes to current ethical situations and dilemmas within the profession. Nonetheless, this survey does not allow us to draw conclusions on whether or not ethics in the optometric curriculum will have an impact on the decisions that future practitioners will face.
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