Core components of communication of clinical reasoning: a qualitative study with experienced Australian physiotherapists

Rola Ajjawi, Joy Higgs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Communication is an important area in health professional education curricula, however it has been dealt with as discrete skills that can be learned and taught separate to the underlying thinking. Communication of clinical reasoning is a phenomenon that has largely been ignored in the literature. This research sought to examine how experienced physiotherapists communicate their clinical reasoning and to identify the core processes of this communication. A hermeneutic phenomenological research study was conducted using multiple methods of text construction including repeated semi-structured interviews, observation and written exercises. Hermeneutic analysis of texts involved iterative reading and interpretation of texts with the development of themes and sub-themes. Communication of clinical reasoning was perceived to be complex, dynamic and largely automatic. A key finding was that articulating reasoning (particularly during research) does not completely represent actual reasoning processes but represents a (re)construction of the more complex, rapid and multi-layered processes that operate in practice. These communications are constructed in ways that are perceived as being most relevant to the audience, context and purpose of the communication. Five core components of communicating clinical reasoning were identified: active listening, framing and presenting the message, matching the co-communicator, metacognitive aspects of communication and clinical reasoning abilities. We propose that communication of clinical reasoning is both an inherent part of reasoning as well as an essential and complementary skill based on the contextual demands of the task and situation. In this way clinical reasoning and its communication are intertwined, providing evidence for the argument that they should be learned (and explicitly taught) in synergy and in context.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)107-119
    Number of pages13
    JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


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