Diagnostic reasoning as a medium for promoting patient safety

Document Type: Review Article


1 School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

2 Sligo Medical Academy, Sligo University Hospital, Sligo, Ireland.


Introduction:Diagnostic reasoning is a key skill practised by clinicians. It is a process by which correct clinical diagnosis is reached. Learning theories offer some guidance on how this cognitive skill is best taught; what curriculum best supports it and how it is learned and used by expert and novice learners. Novice and expert learners have different needs when it comes to developing this skill. This paper aims to explore the unique role of the medical educator; exploring how they facilitate diagnostic reasoning amongst learners with an emphasis on improving patient safety.
Materials and methods:The bibliography assembled for this literature review includes original articles, quantitative and qualitative papers, narrative review articles, editorials and other documents identified through PubMed, Scopus, ERIC, Australian Education Index, British Education Index and Google Scholar Database searches.
Results – Medical educators employ a variety of teaching strategies including ‘thinking aloud’ techniques and hypothesis generation. There is some dispute in the literature as to which teaching strategies and which curricula best support the learning of diagnostic reasoning. The contribution of good diagnostic reasoning skills in reducing clinical error and maintaining patient safety is clear.
Conclusions – It is important to continue to encourage the teaching of diagnostic reasoning with an emphasis on patient safety and its role in reducing clinical error and adverse events for patients.


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