Medical humanities and education research news

Improving clinical reasoning in health professionals

Dr Rola Ajjawi is lecturer and course coordinator of the Master of Medical Education program at the Office of Postgraduate Medical Education. She brings to the field of medical education knowledge gained as a practicing physiotherapist, a clinical educator, a clinical academic and recently as a full-time University academic.

Rola’s work lies in promoting the development of clinical reasoning in health professionals across the education continuum from undergraduate through to specialisation. One outcome of researching the nature of clinical reasoning, how it’s learned and communicated has resulted in the development of a case-based learning model for students in Stage 3 of the University of Sydney medical program. This model has been implemented and research investigating its impact on student learning is currently underway.

Other research projects include: analysing the influences on general practice registrars’ prescribing, understanding homeopathic clinical reasoning, exploring the articulation of reasoning in the long case exam and also looking at clinical reasoning in bedside teaching encounters using mixed research methods such as surveys, video ethnography and semi-structured interviews.

Better understanding of the development of clinical reasoning in health professionals is key to designing effective education and in optimising student learning in the university and health care settings with the ultimate goal of patient safety and improved care in mind.

Rola’s work in clinical reasoning has been recognised externally in the number of invited presentations, involvement in supervision and management of a number of research projects, including one funded by the National Prescribing Service and involving industry collaboration with General Practice Regional Training Providers in Sydney, rural Victoria and Tasmania.

Ethical norms in psychiatric practice

Dr Michael Robertson is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine and a consultant psychiatrist (he is a Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Psychological Medicine). He is also the coordinator of BETH 5205 -Ethics in Mental Health (a unit of study in the bioethics program).

His PhD used empirical methods to elaborate ethical norms in psychiatric practice. Dr Robertson's current research program includes empirical enquiry into Values Based Medicine (funded by a grant from the Medical Foundation); the construction of the concepts of "risk" and "capacity" in the context of involuntary psychiatric treatment(funded by a grant from NSW Health); the development of more sophisticated models of psychological trauma; and the depiction of traumatic stress in children's Holocaust literature.

Dr Robertson currently provides supervision for PhD students conducting research in the areas of suicide and ethnographic research in mental health services .