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Promoting clinical reasoning in general practice trainees: role of the clinical teacher.

ABSTRACT

Clinical reasoning requires knowledge, cognition and metacognition, and is contextually bound. Clinical teachers can and should play a key role in explicitly promoting clinical reasoning.The aim of this article is to relate the clinical reasoning literature to the general practice or family medicine context, and to provide clinical teachers with strategies to promote clinical reasoning.It is important that the clinical teacher teaches trainees the specific skills sets of the expert general practitioner (e.g. synthesising skills, recognising prototypes, focusing on cues and clues, using community resources and dealing with uncertainty) in order to promote clinical reasoning in the context of general practice or family medicine. Clinical teachers need to understand their own reasoning processes as well as be able to convey that knowledge to their trainees. They also need to understand the developmental stages of clinical reasoning and be able to nurture each trainee's own expertise. Strategies for facilitating effective clinical reasoning in trainees include adequate exposure to patients, offering the trainees opportunity for reflection and feedback, and coaching on the techniques of reasoning in the general practice context.The journey to expertise in clinical reasoning is unique to each clinician, with different skills developing at different rates, depending on content, context and past experience. Doctors enter into general practice training with the building blocks of biomedical and clinical knowledge and a desire to learn how to be a general practitioner. Clinical teachers are integral in the process of helping trainees learn how to 'think like a general practitioner'.