Ways of Being in Generalist Practice: Using Five “T” Habits of Mind to Guide Ethical Behavior


William Ventres and Marc Tunzi



The practice of generalist medicine differs from the practice of other clinical disciplines. We postulate that the application of ethics in generalist practice similarly differs from its application in other healthcare settings. In contrast to the problem-focused practice of ethics in other medical specialties, the practice of ethics in generalist medicine blends habits of mind with behaviors applied routinely over time—an ethical way of being. Using a graphic summary and tabular matrix, we present five “T” habits of mind (time, talk, tact, touch, and trust), associate them with applicable practice characteristics, and link them to observable clinician behaviors to demonstrate how the application of ethics in generalist practice is a day-to-day endeavor and not simply a means to resolve episodic conflicts. We textually review key aspects of the matrix and present two case studies that illustrate how such habits of mind and practice behaviors inform the ethical way of being we espouse. We invite generalist practitioners to incorporate the five “T” habits and associated behaviors into their daily care of patients, and we encourage clinical ethicists and other clinical faculty members to consider using them as a model for ethics education with medical students and resident physicians.



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