There is limited understanding of how osteopaths make decisions in relation to clinical practice. The aim of this research was to construct an explanatory theory of the clinical decision-making and therapeutic approaches of experienced osteopaths in the UK. Twelve UK registered osteopaths participated in this constructivist grounded theory qualitative study. Purposive and theoretical sampling was used to select participants. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews which were audio-recorded and transcribed. As the study approached theoretical sufficiency, participants were observed and video-recorded during a patient appointment, which was followed by a video-prompted interview. Constant comparative analysis was used to analyse and code data. Data analysis resulted in the construction of three qualitatively different therapeutic approaches which characterised participants and their clinical practice, termed; Treater, Communicator and Educator. Participants' therapeutic approach influenced their approach to clinical decision-making, the level of patient involvement, their interaction with patients, and therapeutic goals. Participants' overall conception of practice lay on a continuum ranging from technical rationality to professional artistry, and contributed to their therapeutic approach. A range of factors were identified which influenced participants' conception of practice. The findings indicate that there is variation in osteopaths' therapeutic approaches to practice and clinical decision-making, which are influenced by their overall conception of practice. This study provides the first explanatory theory of the clinical decision-making and therapeutic approaches of osteopaths.
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- Clinical reasoning
- Grounded theory