Clinical judgement, expertise and skilled coping

Thornton, Tim orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0137-1554 (2010) Clinical judgement, expertise and skilled coping. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 16 (2). pp. 284-291. ISSN 1356-1294

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Medicine involves specific practical expertise as well as more general context-independent medical knowledge. This raises the question, what is the nature of the expertise involved? Is there a model of clinical judgement or understanding that can accommodate both elements? This paper begins with a summary of a published account of the kinds of situation-specific skill found in anaesthesia. It authors claim that such skills are often neglected because of a prejudice in favour of the ‘technical rationality’ exemplified in evidence-based medicine but they do not themselves offer a general account of the relation
of practical expertise and general medical knowledge. The philosopher Hubert Dreyfus provides one model of the relation of general knowledge to situation-specific skilled
coping. He claims that the former logically depends on the latter and provides two arguments, which I articulate in the second section, for this. But he mars those arguments by
building in the further assumption that such situation-specific responses must be understood as concept-free and thus mindless. That assumption is held in place by three arguments all of which I criticize in the next section to give a unified account of clinical judgement as both practical and conceptually structured and thus justified in the face of a prejudice in favour of ‘technical rationality’.

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