April 2019 What I’m Thinking About…

Certainty vs. Uncertainty in Health Sciences Education

Charles F. Shuler, Kavita Mathu-Muju & HsingChi von Bergmann

Date: Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Time: 12:00pm to 1:30pm

  • formal presentations and discussion from 12:00pm – 1:00pm, ongoing moderated discussion 1:00pm – 1:30pm
  • feel free to bring a bagged lunch


  • LSC CMR 1312 (host venue)
  • DHCC 2262
  • NHSC 9-374
  • RJH CA 011



  1. Discuss certainty vs uncertainty discussions in health care practices.
  2. Theorize potential conflicts between evidence-based practices and critical reasoning in health sciences education.
  3. Propose programmatic implications of uncertainty for health sciences professional programs.


Students admitted to professional education have been high achievers during their first degrees. For the high academic achievers, often in every case of school assessment, getting the correct answer was a primary learning objective so their academic profile can be competitive for their application. Such an undergraduate experience conditions learners well for traditional single best answer type of examinations. Many of them, after entering health sciences programs, continue to establish a very high premium on remembering and recalling specific facts when requested. This results in an emphasis on certainty in their education, yet when these students enter patient care settings “one correct answer” is often absent. This uncertainty creates a dissonance in their approach to their career objectives. It is important for health science education to inform students that they may encounter clinical situations where the final answer/diagnosis is uncertain and that they will need to manage that uncertainty. In this talk, we raise the question: Does the current culture of “Certainty” in the health sciences educational programs provide students with the experience to manage “Uncertainty” in their future clinical career?


The University of British Columbia Division of Continuing Professional Development (UBC CPD) is fully accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Continuing Medical Education (CACME) to provide study credits for continuing medical education for physicians. This event is an Accredited Group Learning Activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and approved by UBC CPD. You may claim a maximum of 1.5 (x 10 sessions) hours (credits are automatically calculated). This Group Learning program meets the certification criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and has been certified by UBC CPD for up to 1.5 (x 10 sessions) Mainpro+ credits. Each physician should claim only those credits he/she actually spent in the activity.

Accredited by UBC CPD