Introduction: Diagnostic reasoning is considered to be based on the interaction between analytical and non-analytical cognitive processes. Gut feelings, a specific form of non-analytical reasoning, play a substantial role in diagnostic reasoning by general practitioners (GPs) and may activate analytical reasoning. In GP traineeships in the Netherlands, trainees mostly see patients alone but regularly consult with their supervisors to discuss patients and problems, receive feedback, and improve their competencies. In the present study, we examined the discussions of supervisors and their trainees about diagnostic reasoning in these so-called tutorial dialogues and how gut feelings feature in these discussions.
Methods: 17 tutorial dialogues focussing on diagnostic reasoning were video-recorded and transcribed and the protocols were analysed using a detailed bottom-up and iterative content analysis and coding procedure. The dialogues were segmented into quotes. Each quote received a content code and a participant code. The number of words per code was used as a unit of analysis to quantitatively compare the contributions to the dialogues made by supervisors and trainees, and the attention given to different topics.
Results: The dialogues were usually analytical reflections on a traineeâ€™s diagnostic reasoning. A hypothetico-deductive strategy was often used, by listing differential diagnoses and discussing what information guided the reasoning process and might confirm or exclude provisional hypotheses. Gut feelings were discussed in 7 dialogues. They were used as a tool in diagnostic reasoning, inducing analytical reflection, sometimes on the entire diagnostic reasoning process.
Conclusions: The emphasis in these tutorial dialogues was on analytical components of diagnostic reasoning. Â Discussing gut feelings in tutorial dialogues seems to be a good educational method to familiarize trainees with non-analytical reasoning. Supervisors need specialised knowledge about these aspects of diagnostic reasoning and how to deal with them in medical education.
Published on line in Advances inÂ Sciences Health Education (ASHE) (free access):
The complete Table 2 can be find here: Table 2 (extended version)