Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 107–119

Core components of communication of clinical reasoning: a qualitative study with experienced Australian physiotherapists


DOI: 10.1007/s10459-011-9302-7

Cite this article as:
Ajjawi, R. & Higgs, J. Adv in Health Sci Educ (2012) 17: 107. doi:10.1007/s10459-011-9302-7


Communication is an important area in health professional education curricula, however it has been dealt with as discrete skills that can be learned and taught separate to the underlying thinking. Communication of clinical reasoning is a phenomenon that has largely been ignored in the literature. This research sought to examine how experienced physiotherapists communicate their clinical reasoning and to identify the core processes of this communication. A hermeneutic phenomenological research study was conducted using multiple methods of text construction including repeated semi-structured interviews, observation and written exercises. Hermeneutic analysis of texts involved iterative reading and interpretation of texts with the development of themes and sub-themes. Communication of clinical reasoning was perceived to be complex, dynamic and largely automatic. A key finding was that articulating reasoning (particularly during research) does not completely represent actual reasoning processes but represents a (re)construction of the more complex, rapid and multi-layered processes that operate in practice. These communications are constructed in ways that are perceived as being most relevant to the audience, context and purpose of the communication. Five core components of communicating clinical reasoning were identified: active listening, framing and presenting the message, matching the co-communicator, metacognitive aspects of communication and clinical reasoning abilities. We propose that communication of clinical reasoning is both an inherent part of reasoning as well as an essential and complementary skill based on the contextual demands of the task and situation. In this way clinical reasoning and its communication are intertwined, providing evidence for the argument that they should be learned (and explicitly taught) in synergy and in context.


Clinical reasoning Clinical skills Communication Physiotherapy Qualitative research Health professions education 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Medical EducationUniversity of DundeeDundeeScotland, UK
  2. 2.The Education for Practice InstituteCharles Sturt UniversitySydney Olympic Park, SydneyAustralia

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