February 1999

The Art of PreceptingSocrates or Aunt Minnie?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, State University of New York Health Science Center, Syracuse.


Copyright 1999 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1999

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999;153(2):114-116. doi:10.1001/archpedi.153.2.114

As clinicians and as teachers we are asked to be efficient and effective. In pediatric outpatient departments, this sometimes seems like a tall order, especially when trainees are lined up to present cases. They expect excellent teaching and families expect excellent care for their children.

Tradition has given us the Socratic method: the trainee performs a complete medical history and physical examination and presents the case with all details to a preceptor. The trainee then lists the diagnostic possibilities and the 2 engage in a discussion of the pros and cons of each diagnosis. Facets of the history and examination are discussed and there is a process of elimination until the most likely diagnosis is chosen. The method is thorough but time consuming. In the past, the preceptor may not actually have seen the patient.

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