Reflective Case Study: Abdominal Examination in General Practice

Categories: HealthNursingPain


This reflective case study utilizes Gibbs' (1988) model of reflection to recount and analyze an abdominal examination conducted in a general practice setting. The case involves a 21-year-old male soldier who presented with severe acute abdominal pain.

The examination was performed under the supervision of a medical officer (MO), applying skills acquired during the course. This essay will explore the events, feelings, evaluations, analysis, and the subsequent action plan for ongoing professional development.

Case Overview and Examination

During the morning sick parade, I encountered a 21-year-old male soldier in distress due to severe acute abdominal pain. Following the structure provided by Byrne and Long's (1976) model, I sought the patient's consent before initiating the examination, emphasizing the ethical importance of patient permission (Seidal et al., 2006). The initial assessment revealed the patient's agitation and pain, prompting me to prioritize reassurance and comfort before proceeding.

The physical examination, guided by the MO, indicated a soft, palpable abdomen with no tenderness. Bowel sounds were normal, vital signs were stable, and the patient reported cramping, centralized pain.

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Despite the patient's distress, I felt confident in applying my practiced skills, having undergone prior training and mock OSCE scenarios. However, the pressure was heightened due to the responsibility of OOH care and the necessity to make accurate decisions promptly.

Feelings and Evaluation

Confidence in my examination skills was bolstered by prior practice, and my ability to handle patient care independently during OOH situations. The structured consultation model helped me maintain focus, ensuring relevant questions were addressed. However, the continuous monitoring added pressure to deliver a precise diagnosis.

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Although confident, the realization that certain aspects of the physical examination were overlooked brought forth self-reflection on the need for further improvement.

The SOLER principles (Egan, 1990) facilitated a comprehensive patient history, aiding in the formulation of a differential diagnosis and exclusion of certain causes. The subsequent physical examination confirmed the diagnosis of acute abdomen. While the patient did not exhibit red flag symptoms associated with abdominal emergencies, I acknowledged the need for more practice to reduce instances of oversight in future examinations.

Analysis and Conclusion

Reflecting on the case, the examination successfully ruled out distinct causes of abdominal pain, aligning with Schon's (1984) concept of utilizing collected data to make informed decisions. The MO's approval of the diagnosis and care plan was affirming, yet the importance of continuous practice, particularly in physical examination skills, was emphasized. The analysis revealed moments of oversight, prompting self-awareness and the recognition of areas for improvement.

Action Plan

For ongoing professional development, I recognize the necessity to continue physical examinations under the guidance of senior practitioners. Utilizing their expertise during decision-making processes will further enhance my skills. Additionally, adopting Byrne and Long's (1976) consultation model will contribute to refining my consultation and history-taking skills, ensuring a holistic approach to patient care.


This reflective case study has delved into an abdominal examination conducted in general practice, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and self-improvement. The integration of Gibbs' reflective model has provided a structured analysis of the events, feelings, evaluations, and actions, offering valuable insights for future practice. The commitment to ongoing development is paramount in becoming a competent and effective practitioner in general practice.

Updated: Dec 01, 2023
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Reflective Case Study: Abdominal Examination in General Practice. (2016, Mar 24). Retrieved from

Reflective Case Study: Abdominal Examination in General Practice essay
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