The ethical experiences of trainees on short-term international trips: A systematic qualitative synthesis

James Aluri, Dane Moran, Antony G. Kironji, Bryn Carroll, Jacob Cox, Chi Chiung Grace Chen, Matthew Decamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Medical student and resident participation in short-term international trips for trainees (STINTTs) has increased in the past few decades. However, there has been no systematic review of trainees' actual ethical experiences. The authors sought to identify what ethical issues medical trainees encounter during STINTTs, as elicited by and reported in peer-reviewed, quantitative and qualitative research papers. Methods: The authors systematically searched five academic databases finding 659 unique titles and abstracts. The authors applied inclusion and exclusion criteria to these titles and abstracts resulting in fourteen papers, which were analyzed using qualitative thematic synthesis. Results: The qualitative analysis of the papers generated four themes: (1) Trainees' Concerns Over Perpetuating Medical Tourism; (2) Struggling to Identify and Balance the Benefits and Harms of STINTTs; (3) The Complicated Trainee Mens (mind); and (4) Ethical Situations Encountered by Trainees. The fourth theme, which was the largest, was further divided into (a) Navigating social and cultural dynamics, (b) Trainees' experiences related to the learner role, and (c) Ethical situations not qualifying for other catagories. Some of these issues reported in the empirical research papers are well represented in the broader literature on STINTTs, while others were less so - such as mistreatment of trainees. All included papers were published after 2010, and comprised a total of less than 170 medical trainees. Conclusions: Medical trainees report experiencing a wide range of ethical challenges during short-term international trips in which they engage in clinical or research activities. The authors call educators' attention to specific challenges that trainees face. The relevant literature covering US and Canadian STINTTs is relatively young and largely qualitative. The authors briefly sketch a program for expanding the research on this increasingly common educational experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number324
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 29 2018


  • Global health
  • International health
  • Medical education
  • Medical ethics
  • Medical missions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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