Effect of experience on clinical decision making by cardiorespiratory physiotherapists in acute care settings

Physiother Theory Pract. 2010 Feb;26(2):89-99. doi: 10.3109/09593980802698032.


This article investigates clinical decision making in acute care hospitals by cardiorespiratory physiotherapists with differing degrees of clinical experience. Participants were observed as they engaged in their everyday practice and were interviewed about their decision making. Texts of the data were interpreted by using a hermeneutic approach that involved repeated reading and analysis of fieldnotes and interview transcripts to develop an understanding of the effect of experience on clinical decision making. Participants were classified into categories of cardiorespiratory physiotherapy experience: less experienced (<2 years), intermediate experience (2.5-4 years), and more experienced (>7 years). Four dimensions characteristic of increasing experience in cardiorespiratory physiotherapy clinical decision making were identified: 1) an individual practice model, 2) refined approaches to clinical decision making, 3) working in context, and 4) social and emotional capability. Underpinning these dimensions was evidence of reflection on practice, motivation to achieve best practice, critique of new knowledge, increasing confidence, and relationships with knowledgeable colleagues. These findings reflect characteristics of physiotherapy expertise that have been described in the literature. This study adds knowledge about the field of cardiorespiratory physiotherapy to the existing body of research on clinical decision making and broadens the existing understanding of characteristics of physiotherapy expertise.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Comprehension
  • Decision Making*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Lung Diseases / therapy*
  • Motivation
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Physical Therapy Specialty*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Social Behavior
  • Workforce