Clinical reasoning of an experienced physiotherapist: insight into clinician decision-making regarding low back pain.

E. Noll, A. Key, Gail Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Investigation of the clinical reasoning skills of experienced clinicians provides insight into decision-making in the practice of physiotherapy. The purpose of the present study was to analyse the clinical reasoning skills of an experienced physiotherapist during her assessment and treatment of clients with low back pain. METHOD: Deconstruction of the physiotherapist's reasoning process was accomplished through observation of encounters between her and each of six patient subjects. Reconstruction and analysis of the physiotherapist's decision-making process was performed through retrospective interviews and reflective analysis of her clinical reasoning during each encounter. RESULTS: A working model of the physiotherapist's clinical reasoning was created from an integration of theoretical elements in the literature and the data. Through analysis of this framework, two core dimensions of her clinical reasoning were revealed: the influence of clinical experience and the influence of advanced training in a specific philosophy of treating the spine. CONCLUSIONS: The construction of these themes has contributed to the growing understanding of clinical reasoning strategies and skills used in orthopaedic physical therapy practice. Detailed description of the physiotherapist's reasoning process provides more meaningful understanding of physiotherapy treatments. In this case the physiotherapist employed a pattern recognition strategy and forward reasoning process in making a diagnosis. Further research is necessary to expand knowledge on the development of clinical reasoning skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-51
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiotherapy Research International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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