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February 1999

The Art of Precepting: Socrates or Aunt Minnie?

Author Affiliations

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

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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