Illness script development in pre-clinical education through case-based clinical reasoning training

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Objectives To assess illness script richness and maturity in preclinical students after they attended a specifically structured instructional format, i.e., a case based clinical reasoning (CBCR) course. Methods In a within-subject experimental design, medical students who had finished the CBCR course participated in an illness script experiment. In the first session, richness and maturity of students' illness scripts for diseases discussed during the CBCR course were compared to illness script richness and maturity for similar diseases not included in the course. In the second session, diagnostic performance was tested, to test for differences between CBCR cases and non-CBCR cases. Scores on the CBCR course exam were related to both experimental outcomes. Results Thirty-two medical students participated. Illness script richness for CBCR diseases was almost 20% higher than for non-CBCR diseases, on average 14.47 (SD=3.25) versus 12.14 (SD=2.80), respectively (p<0.001). In addition, students provided more information on Enabling Conditions and less on Fault-related aspects of the disease. Diagnostic performance was better for the diseases discussed in the CBCR course, mean score 1.63 (SD=0.32) versus 1.15 (SD=0.29) for non-CBCR diseases (p<0.001). A significant correlation of exam results with recognition of CBCR cases was found (r=0.571, p<0.001), but not with illness script richness (r=-0.006, p=NS). Conclusions The CBCR-course fosters early development of clinical reasoning skills by increasing the illness script richness and diagnostic performance of pre-clinical students. However, these results are disease-specific and therefore we cannot conclude that students develop a more general clinical reasoning ability.




Keemink, Y., Custers, E. J. F. M., van Dijk, S., & Ten Cate, O. (2018). Illness script development in pre-clinical education through case-based clinical reasoning training. International Journal of Medical Education, 9, 35–41.

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