Background: Clinical reasoning skills are embedded in all aspects of practice. There is a lack of consensus and standards for curriculum design and teaching methods of clinical reasoning in entry-level education of health professionals. Purpose: The purpose was to describe a process of designing one comprehensive, planned sequence of four courses to create significant learning experiences for clinical reasoning for Doctor of Physical Therapy students. Method: Fink’s design process was used to develop four clinical decision-making courses to ensure a close alignment of learning goals, feedback and assessment, and learning activities to engage students in practicing components of clinical reasoning. Student outcomes were measured by self-efficacy ratings for clinical reasoning in a practical exam for first-year students and by ratings of performance by clinical instructors for third-year students. Results: 41 first-year students ranked their confidence in making clinical decisions both before and after a midterm practical. A paired t-test found a significant difference (.05t40 = -6.66, ρ=0.00) in the mean ratings of students from the pre-practical assessment to the post-practical assessment about confidence in making clinical decisions. Third-year students received ratings that met or exceeded expectations on five audited skills from the Physical Therapist manual for the Assessment of Clinical Skills (PT MACS), both at midterm and at the final assessment. No significant differences between midterm and final ratings on any of the selected skills were found using a Chi-Square Test of Independence (α=.05). Conclusion: The four-course sequence was designed using four themes: patient-centered care, models of practice, and evidence-based practice, and ethics/legal issues. This paper offers specific details about how one method of teaching clinical reasoning meets the current trends in education and health care for accountability and meaningful outcomes. Students gained practical knowledge and skills in the components of clinical reasoning and decision-making by participating in active and engaging significant learning experiences.

Author Bio(s)

Lois Stickley, PT, PhD is an Associate Professor in the College of Health Professions, Department of Physical Therapy at Texas State University in Round Rock, TX. She is also a licensed physical therapist.




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