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

Megan Smith, Joy Higgs, Elizabeth Ellis

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    30 Citations (Scopus)
    222 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper 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 using a hermeneutic approach which involved repeated reading and analysis of field-notes 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 (<2years), 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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)89-99
    Number of pages11
    JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


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