Deliberate practice and acquisition of expert performance: a general overview

Acad Emerg Med. 2008 Nov;15(11):988-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00227.x. Epub 2008 Sep 5.


Traditionally, professional expertise has been judged by length of experience, reputation, and perceived mastery of knowledge and skill. Unfortunately, recent research demonstrates only a weak relationship between these indicators of expertise and actual, observed performance. In fact, observed performance does not necessarily correlate with greater professional experience. Expert performance can, however, be traced to active engagement in deliberate practice (DP), where training (often designed and arranged by their teachers and coaches) is focused on improving particular tasks. DP also involves the provision of immediate feedback, time for problem-solving and evaluation, and opportunities for repeated performance to refine behavior. In this article, we draw upon the principles of DP established in other domains, such as chess, music, typing, and sports to provide insight into developing expert performance in medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Physicians / standards*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Professional Competence* / standards
  • Task Performance and Analysis