An editorial by Geoffrey Norman, Ph.D entitled "Building on Experience-The Development of Clinical Reasoning" is found in the November 23, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
I have written before on the importance of experience to gather up the particulars necessary to begin to be an expert. Dr. Norman's editorial is a pleasure to read because his views coincide with mine.
He points out that in regard to the nature of expert clinical reasoning there was-for a while- a school of thought that posited that it involved the acquisition of some general problem solving skill. Apparently this approach was wrong. He speaks of "content specificity" which means that success in problem solving was strongly related to have the right kind of content knowledge.
Basically experts have to know their subject matter. Here is a key quote from his editorial:
"The process of pattern recognition, so characteristic of an expert's approach, is a product of extensive experience with patients overlaid on a formal knowledge background."
"...trying to teach or evaluate clinical problem solving or clinical reasoning skills is quixotic. Knowledge counts."
It is all about practice and experience and previously I wondered what the consequences are/will be of the time shortened internal medicine training program. Will the novice internists leave their training programs with the expertise needed to qualify as even a rookie expert?
Last year,an Annals of Internal Medicine article highlighted a case of TB that was very badly mishandled in a teaching hospital. The emphasis in the discussion-inappropriately in my view-was on a systems approach fix. What the problem was that the pattern recognition skills of the house officers and apparently the radiologists were seriously lacking.