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Teaching Protocols

Teaching protocols also called teaching algorithms, fall somewhere between strict protocols and physician protocols; they guide students through the exercise of professional judgment. Teaching protocols thus fill the dual purpose of providing consistency of care and allowing students to learn how to make good judgments.

The hallmark of a teaching protocol is a differential diagnosis list, which is generally unnecessary in a physician protocol and not proper in a protocol intended for PEs. The classic example of a group of teaching protocols is the Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics, often called the "intern's brain." The entries in this manual include a general definition of the condition and a list of other possible causes of the patient's problems. It then explains how to treat the patient, with reasons for some of the recommendations. Medical students use this source to learn about basic treatments. Residents use it as a treatment guide and for help in solving unfamiliar problems. Established physicians consult it when caring for patients with a problem they have not treated recently or for which treatment standards have changed. Each would learn from the protocols and use them according to their level of training and licensure.

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