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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 30, 2018

Becoming a teacher of clinical reasoning

Robert L. Trowbridge and Andrew P.J. Olson
From the journal Diagnosis


Diagnostic reasoning is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of clinical practice. As a result, facility in teaching diagnostic reasoning is a core necessity for all medical educators. Clinician educators’ limited understanding of the diagnostic process and how expertise is developed may result in lost opportunities in nurturing the diagnostic abilities of themselves and their learners. In this perspective, the authors describe their journeys as clinician educators searching for a coherent means of teaching diagnostic reasoning. They discuss the initial appeal and immediate applicability of dual process theory and cognitive biases to their own clinical experiences and those of their trainees, followed by the eventual and somewhat belated recognition of the importance of context specificity. They conclude that there are no quick fixes in guiding learners to expertise of diagnostic reasoning, but rather the development of these abilities is best viewed as a long, somewhat frustrating, but always interesting journey. The role of the teacher of clinical reasoning is to guide the learners on this journey, recognizing true mastery may not be attained, but should remain a goal for teacher and learner alike.

  1. Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: None declared.

  3. Employment or leadership: None declared.

  4. Honorarium: None declared.

  5. Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.


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Received: 2018-2-8
Accepted: 2018-3-14
Published Online: 2018-3-30
Published in Print: 2018-3-28

©2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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