Introduction: The physical examination is an essential clinical competence for all physicians. Most medical schools have students who learn the physical examination maneuvers using a head-to-toe approach. However, this promotes a rote approach to the physical exam, and it is not uncommon for students later on to fail to appreciate the meaning of abnormal findings and their contribution to the diagnostic reasoning process. The purpose of the project was to develop a model teaching session for the hypothesis-driven physical examination (HDPE) approach in which students could practice the physical examination in the context of diagnostic reasoning. Methods: We used an action research methodology to create this HDPE model by developing a teaching session, implementing it over 100 times with approximately 700 students, conducting internal reflection and external evaluations, and making adjustments as needed. Results: A model nine-step HDPE teaching session was developed, including: (1) orientation, (2) anticipation, (3) preparation, (4) role play, (5) discussion-1, (6) answers, (7) discussion-2, (8) demonstration and (9) reflection. Discussions and conclusions: A structured model HDPE teaching session and tutor guide were developed into a workable instructional intervention. Faculty members are invited to teach the physical examination using this model.
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