Navigating Challenging Conversations: The Interplay Between Inquiry and Knowledge Drives Preparation for Future Learning

Angela Orsino
Anne A. Kawamura
Leah Brown
Maria Mylopoulos
Mohammad S. Zubairi
Soort article
Original Research
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Introduction: While some physicians hone their skills through informal learning in clinical practice, others do not. There is a lack of understanding of why some physicians seek improvement and how they use the workplace context to build their capabilities. Because physicians rarely pursue formal professional development activities to improve communication skills, examining physician-patient communication offers a powerful opportunity to illuminate important aspects of preparation for future learning in the workplace.

Methods: This qualitative observational study involved over 100 hours of observation of eight pediatric rehabilitation physicians as they interacted with patients and families at an academic teaching hospital in 2018–2020. Detailed field notes of observations, post-observation interviews, and exit interviews were the data sources. Data collection and analysis using a constructivist grounded theory approach occurred iteratively, and themes were identified through constant comparative analysis.

Results: Through their daily work, experienced physicians employ ‘habits of inquiry’ by constantly seeking a better understanding of how to navigate challenging conversations in practice through monitoring and attuning to situational and contextual cues, taking risks and navigating uncertainty while exploring new and varied ways of practicing, and seeking why their strategies are successful or not.

Discussion: Engaging in communication challenges drives physician learning through an interplay between habits of inquiry and knowledge: inquiry into how to improve their communication supported by existing conceptual knowledge to generate new strategies. These ‘habits of inquiry’ prompt continual reinvestment in problem solving to refine existing knowledge and to build new skills for navigating communication challenges in practice.


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