Patient Care

Physician Tips Help Hone Clinicians' Practice Management, Decision-Making Skills


At A Glance

Series: Hospital Medicine: Current Concepts

Title: Becoming a Consummate Clinician: What Every Student, House Officer and Hospital Practitioner Needs to Know.

Authors: Ary L. Goldberger, MD, and Zachary D. Goldberger, MD, MS, eds.

Published: 2012

Pages: 224

EDITOR’S NOTE: Second in an occasional series of reviews of the Hospital Medicine: Current Concepts series by members of Team Hospitalist.


The third installment in the Hospital Medicine: Current Concepts series, Becoming a Consummate Clinician is written in two parts. Part 1, “Medical Musts and Must-Nots,” is focused on the basics of being a clinician: gathering an appropriate history, performing an effective physical examination, and formulating differential diagnoses. This section in particular is geared toward house officers and attending physicians on teaching teams. While the audience here is primarily clinicians on a teaching service, there is good advice for those in any practice setting about avoiding common mistakes and developing clinical sagacity.

In this first section, we are given advisement on treatment of and with medications. Regardless of a clinician’s level of experience, it is worth reading this text to review and internalize these authors’ advice regarding medication pitfalls. Simply putting this advice into one’s daily practice of medicine will take any practitioner a long way toward becoming a “consummate clinician.”

Part 2, “Medical Masteries,” logically builds upon material presented in Part 1. The final section of the book addresses aspects of critical analysis of medical data and encourages engagement of critical thinking skills in all aspects of clinical decision-making. Specific topics addressed include reducing medical errors, reevaluating evidence-based medicine, deconstructing several widely cited medical aphorisms, identifying sources of cognitive errors, and transforming information into understanding.

The authors devoted the final chapter to the discussion of “What is disease?” and “What is health?” which, quite frankly, adds little value to the book.

Drs. Goldberger and Goldberger discuss what they term the “interstitial curriculum”—what is not explicitly taught but should be. Included in the “interstitial curriculum” is examination of cognitive errors and how we are more apt to make these in the era of “high-throughput” patient care. Another topic included in their “interstitial curriculum” is the paucity of attention paid to addressing uncertainty in all aspects of medicine. These topics are worth the cost of this book, even if it only helps promote awareness of these important ideas and bring the discussion to a larger audience.

Exceprt 1:

The complementary processes of constantly rethinking assumptions, researching information, and reformulating basic mechanisms are fundamental to practicing all types of medicine successfully. Such processes also help to avoid potentially lethal errors and help to rigorously and compassionately advance the inseparable sciences of prevention and healing. The deep and multidimensional challenges are central to the ongoing pursuit of becoming the consummate clinician.”


There are times in this book, particularly in the beginning, when the reader feels this text was written for the benefit of the house officer and those practitioners serving on inpatient teaching services. Continued reading, however, finds brilliant advice for clinicians in all practice settings and in all stages of their careers.

The encouragement of all readers to rethink everything we assume to be true and to seek a deeper understanding of what we “know” is priceless.

The quotes included throughout the book were both valuable and enjoyable. The authors included quotes from Plutarch to Hector Barbosa from Pirates of the Caribbean. One quote that is particularly germane to the practice of hospital medicine in this age of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems comes from Sir William Osler:

“Remember…that every patient upon whom you wait will examine you critically and form an estimate of you by the way in which you conduct yourself at the bedside. Skill and nicety in manipulation, in the simple act of feeling the pulse or in the performance of any minor operation, will do more towards establishing confidence in you than a string of diplomas, or the reputation of extensive hospital experience.”

Conversely, the computer-generated graphics added no value and were, in fact, a detractor. Hopefully, the next edition will not feature the sophomorically rendered bridge advising us to “bridge the classroom-to-clinic gap,” the flamingo, or the zigzagging line, among others.

Dr. Lindsey is chief operations officer and strategist of Synergy Surgicalists, and a member of Team Hospitalist.

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