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Do Patients Have Clinical Judgment?

I used to think they didn’t, but they do.

Clinical judgment is the application of individual experience to the variables of a patient’s medical presentation. It’s the hard-worn skill of knowing what to do and how far to go in a particular situation. It’s having the confidence to do nothing. Clinical judgment is learned from seeing lots of sick people. Good clinical judgment is when the gifted capacity of reasoning intersects with experience. Some doctors have better judgment than others.

Aristotle called this phronesis – or practical judgment.

Patients have practical judgment. We often can tell when something’s amiss with our own body. Things feel different or look different. Taking action on these observations is how we exercise judgment as patients.

Parents of children with central venous lines, for example, can often identify the early signs of infection before fever has ever appeared. They know the subtleties of their child’s behavior. The same goes for children with epilepsy. People with diabetes increasingly have the latitude to apply judgment to the management of their disease. This tends to be quite defined, however, with fixed variables and limited options for intervention. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Does It Matter What The Hospitalist Thinks?

I read this article about a young child with heterotaxy syndrome with great interest. Not because I find heterotaxy syndrome something of great fascination, but because of the lack of communication — on both ends of the spectrum:

Even though 5 other Dr. all came in and listened to his lungs and said that he didn’t sound like he was wheezing and that his lungs sounded really good. But because this hospital is overly political, process driven, bureaucratic, and in a constant state of litigious fear they are unable to make any conclusions based on actual medicine and patient care. Common sense is blown out the window when you  have a system were a hospitalist one year out of medical school has an opinion that is as valuable as a cardiologist with 25+ years experience.

But in fairness, they all had to “really consider her opinion.”

So they went and got a pulmonologist to evaluate him, which Scott and I were very happy about because there was nothing in the world that would’ve made me more happy in that moment than to have her proven wrong. Which she was.

The whole article is a case study in stress, distrust, and legalism. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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