Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus


BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 22 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:S3-7195

Precise explanations of how expertise develops can be elusive. An editorial in Radiology (1999;211:1-3) defines it as “the accurate application of knowledge and experience to medical situations” before an exposition on the acquisition of the visual mastery needed to examine x ray films. Long hours of study committing a huge number of configurations to memory, is compared to a grand master's knowledge of chessboard patterns. An expert radiologist typically identifies abnormality within 0.5s, but then spends longer than the novice on establishing a basic representation of the problem. The “automation” of basic observation frees the mind to allow finer discrimination and consideration of novel aspects.