Do doctors, nurses and managers have different thinking styles?

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    A study of the preferred thinking styles among senior health professionals is reported. A total of 49 medical consultants, 50 senior nurses and 53 health managers from two public teaching hospitals in Adelaide, Australia, were invited via a personal letter to complete a questionnaire comprising measures of thinking style (the Rational Experiential Inventory) and cognitive style (two dimensions of the MyersBriggs Type Indicator®). Managers reported a higher preference for 'rational' reasoning than nurses, whereas medical consultants reported a lower preference for 'experiential' reasoning than both managers and nurses. Cognitive style was largely homogenous. Although generalisation of the findings may be limited due to small sample sizes and the self-selection of participants, an understanding of the thinking styles of senior health professionals will likely inform the design and evaluation of future change strategies. What is known about the topic Research outcomes cannot change population health unless they are adopted, but changing the practices of healthcare workers to reduce 'knowdo' gaps is not simple. Although there is some evidence to support professionally-oriented strategies such as educational outreach, audit and feedback and reminders, success is sometimes limited, potentially reflecting the limited use of theory in informing the choice of implementation strategies. Non-theoretical approaches may obscure the behavioural determinants of, and mechanisms for, change, making it impossible to generalise lessons learned form one situation to other contexts. What does this paper add This paper highlights the growing recognition of the need for theory in this important field, and examines a psychological theory for its potential use. Findings provide useful preliminary descriptive data about thinking dispositions within and between three key groups of healthcare decision-makers: senior consultants, senior nurses and managers. It adds to a modest but accumulating research base that explores the tenets of a specified theory among healthcare professionals, reporting reliable differences between individuals in terms of cognitive processing (i.e. how they prefer to think). What are the implications for practitioners Those faced with implementing change should consider theoretically-driven approaches in their selection of strategies. Based on the theory explored herein, two versions of a message, each targeting a different cognitive processing mode, should be more successful than one version only. This should be true for all three professional groups, and represents a testable strategy for future research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)375-380
    Number of pages6
    JournalAustralian Health Review
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • cognition
    • communication
    • personality.


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