Developing Clinical Reasoning Skills as an Athletic Training Student

Clinical reasoning, a cornerstone for every athletic trainer, is a multifaceted skill that evolves through the medical education journey. In a recent study conducted at the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, Netherlands, researchers looked into the student perspective on learning clinical reasoning throughout a Master’s curriculum. Let’s the key findings and shed light on the nuanced process of clinical reasoning.

Understanding Clinical Reasoning:

Clinical reasoning involves an athletic trainer’s ability to gather, synthesize information, generate hypotheses, and formulate clinical decisions. While a standard definition exists, in clinical practice, it unfolds in complexity. Clinical reasoning can be categorized into three concepts: cognitive activity, contextually situated activity, and socially mediated activity.

The Learning Journey

The learning journey of clinical reasoning begins in the student phase, where formal training occurs. As students progress to clinical rotations, they apply and refine their acquired knowledge in real-world scenarios. The transition from theory to practice introduces uncertainties and variations, emphasizing the significance of workplace-based learning.

Cognitive Activity

Athletic training students initially perceive clinical reasoning as a cognitive process. However, that understanding broadens to include various steps, starting even before seeing patients. Clinical reasoning becomes more automatic with practice, integrating into patient consultations during rotations.

Contextually Situated Activity

The workplace becomes a crucial arena for personal growth and developing clinical reasoning expertise. Observing experienced athletic trainers, asking critical questions, and navigating the complexities of real-world situations contribute to students’ clinical reasoning skills. Supportive learning environments and structured workplace activities are key.

Socially Mediated Activity

Social interactions with supervisors, preceptors, patients, and peers play pivotal roles in shaping clinical reasoning skills. Supervisors and preceptors contribute by making the clinical reasoning process visible and creating a conducive learning environment. Patients actively participate by providing information and influencing cognitive processes. Peers serve as valuable sparring partners, fostering collaborative learning.

Implications and Recommendations

Dialogue is an important piece of good clinical reasoning education. Recommendations include empowering students to initiate conversations with supervisors and preceptors, fostering peer and patient engagement, recognizing biases, and embracing the role of boundary crossers.

As athletic training students navigate the landscape of clinical reasoning, there is always a need to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Integrating the benefits of dialogue and empowering athletic training students to actively engage with their learning environment are crucial steps toward enhancing clinical reasoning skills. 

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