Can Safe Clinical Thinking be Taught?

Ian Walsh, A. Spence, James Murray

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To determine if: (a) safe clinical decision making can be taught to undergraduate final year medical students and (b) if such students can be taught to specifically recognise illness severity from nominal clinical data. 
METHODS: 115 final year undergraduate medical students completed a 3 hour interactive Safe Thinking Workshop which focussed entirely on nontechnical skills such as potential perceptive pitfalls, attention to detail, teamwork and safe clinical decision making. The study involved students inspecting and interpreting a set of arterial blood gas results relating to a patient with acute respiratory distress, then answering a short questionnaire addressing biochemical diagnosis, clinical diagnosis and effective management. A separate question was embedded in the questionnaire to determine if astute students could determine the severity of the illness from the CO2 value provided. The study group (n = 58) completed the questionnaire immediately after the Safe Thinking Workshop, whilst the control group (n = 57) completed the questionnaire prior to the Workshop.
RESULTS: The mean total score for study students was 80.51%, with a mean total score of 63.86% for the control group (Student’s t-test; p<0.05). Correct classification of illness severity was observed in 10.35% of study students, compared with 3.51% of control students (p<0.05). 
CONCLUSION: These results suggest that safe clinical decision making and recognition of illness severity can be fostered by specific teaching in the nontechnical skill areas described above.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2014
Event7th Annual Irish Network of Medical Educators Scientific Meeting - United Kingdom, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Feb 201421 Feb 2014


Conference7th Annual Irish Network of Medical Educators Scientific Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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