Everybody seems to know what a clinical skill (CS) is but closer consideration shows that the concept of a CS is not as clear as might be assumed. Some seem to use “CSs” when just referring to physical examination skills, whereas others use the term to also include diagnostic, communication and practical skills. CSs are more than a simple performance, but clinicians are often not consciously aware of the complex interplay of different components of a CS that they are practicing and accordingly do not teach all these aspects to students.
A modified Delphi research was designed to explore concepts around the definition of a CS and its components for learning and teaching. The panel consisted of a group of British doctors, all involved in teaching CSs.
One hundred and twenty-two items were identified and ranked through two rounds of a Delphi process, coded into thirty-seven codes and clustered into six principle themes: professional roles; components of CSs; performance; psychomotor aspects; educational environment; and teacher versus student centeredness.
A CS may contain one or several different domains such as: physical examination skills, practical procedure, communication skills, and management. Acquiring CSs includes three components: learning how to perform certain movements (procedural knowledge), why one should do so (underlying basic science knowledge), and what the findings might mean (clinical reasoning). If we are to teach CSs for clinical practice, we must take these three different components into account in our instructional design.