The development of clinical reasoning throughout the training and career of psychiatrists in Singapore

Int J Med Educ. 2023 Aug 31;14:108-116. doi: 10.5116/ijme.64d9.e64b.


Objectives: The current study sought to explain how different professional experiences led Singaporean psychiatrists to alter their clinical reasoning processes as their careers evolved from psychiatry residents to senior consultant psychiatrists.

Methods: The current qualitative study interviewed 26 clinicians at various stages of their psychiatric career, spanning residents to senior psychiatrists. The authors used a constructivist grounded theory approach to structure the collection and analysis of data. Analyses produced a dense theoretical explanation rooted in the experiences of participants.

Results: Several differences emerged between the way psychiatry residents and senior psychiatrists explained their reasoning process and the experiences on which they based their preference. Residents preferred using deductive logic-driven frameworks that were diagnosis-centric, because of the pressures they experienced during their training and assessments. Senior psychiatrists emphasized a more holistic and problem-centric approach. Participants attributed the changes that occurred over time to practical experiences, such as their greater clinical responsibility and independence, and individual experiences, such as growing sensitivity to the clinical reasoning process or their growing propensity for professional reflectiveness. These changes manifest as an increase in repertoire and flexibility in deployment of different clinical reasoning strategies.

Conclusions: It is important for trainees to be aware of the deductive and inductive modes of clinical reasoning during supervision and to be comfortable with shifting clinical focus from diagnoses to specific individual problems. Training programs should provide and plan adequate longitudinal clinical exposure to develop clinical reasoning abilities in a way that allows consequences of decisions to be explored. Continued faculty development to ease the diversification of clinical reasoning skills should be encouraged, as should reflectivity in the learners during clinical supervision.

Keywords: clinical reasoning; decision making; medical education; psychiatry; reflectivity.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Clinical Reasoning*
  • Consultants
  • Humans
  • Problem Solving
  • Singapore