Phronesis, Medical Leadership and Ethical Decision Making: an educational video series

Wise decisions don’t come about by chance. Phronesis, the process of making practically wise decisions is a skill many experienced doctors in our research demonstrated. Unpacking the process of making practically wise decisions enables us to recognise and enhance the development of decision making, which will benefit medical students and doctors alike.


What does it mean to the medical community to make good/wise/ethical decisions?

We researched one practice community, medical practice, and our findings represent a collective practical wisdom (Phronesis) of their (131 doctors at all career stages) ethical decision-making. This ethos conveys what makes doctors the most trusted profession and their ‘collective Phronesis’ arguably represents humanity at its best. In a follow up evaluation project we found that it is possible to cultivate Phronesis across the medical profession at all career stages by using a filmed box set version of their ethos and an app as an innovative and non-prescriptive moral debating resource. We also found that other healthcare professions could use the resources to improve their ethical decision making. Recently we have been in contact with UK medical schools to support integration of the resources into their curriculum in the same way as they have been endorsed and integrated into MDS, Birmingham curricula (2nd year undergraduate) and partnering medical schools (Warwick and Nottingham). We have also been working with the Royal Colleges to include them in CPD programmes (e.g. a Royal Society of Medicine workshop) and the RCGP is also keen to raise awareness amongst their members so we will be running a trial webinar in May with some of their Faculty Leads.    

The Phronesis and Medical Community Project has been examining the development of wise decision making. 

The final report Phronesis in Medical Decision Making offers significant and improved understanding of how medical students and doctors acquire phronesis.

We have also produced an innovative video series using real life clinical situations from the stories of wise and unwise decision making from your research. This series and accompanying tutor and course notes are available to pilot in undergraduate, trainee and CPD settings. To accompany the series we have also developed an app as a way for analysis and reflections to be downloaded to enable individuals , teams and groups to record and gather experience to enable wise decision making to flourish. A PowerPoint will also accompany the app.

Members of the research team discuss how the video series was created.

How to access the training materials

In order to access the materials it is necessary for you to complete and return a short licence agreement. This can be done by contacting Veemal Bhowruth at the University of Birmingham. Once you have completed the licence agreement you will be issued with a link and password to enable you to access all the materials. If you would like further information or support with using the resources then please contact Dr Mervyn Conroy.

What is the video series based on?

Doctors must demonstrate high levels skills in managing complex clinical and ethical decisions.  Medical schools, CPD providers, trainers and many others aim to support and enhance these skills  but little is known about how we develop wisdom development (Phronesis). This educational video series is a direct result of the findings of the first empirical study of wisdom development in doctors. Our research found doctors used a describable process and a deeper, more nuanced set of  15 ethical decision components (or virtues) to arrive at wise decisions.

Find out more about our research

Who created the video series ?

The research team behind these materials is based at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham working  in collaboration with clinicians and educators from the medical schools of Birmingham, Warwick  and Nottingham. The videos themselves have been produced by University of Cumbria as part of their innovative Stilwell series aimed at public sector workers.

What does the video series consist of ?

The video series consists of a set of 6 short videos, each 5-8  minutes long, which follow the journey of 2 medical students; one becoming  a consultant and one a GP.  Each video has a set of tutor notes with learning outcomes and suggested questions to facilitate dialogue and discussion, along with participant notes. A final, seventh tutorial, aims to consolidate learning.

Who is the video series for ?

The tutor and course notes have been devised for use in medical undergraduate settings but are equally applicable in continuing professional development (CPD) settings.

Who funded the development and evaluation of this video series ?

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Is the video series open access?

The training materials are available free for a limited period to those medical schools and CPD providers who agree to participate in evaluating these materials.

The evaluation is scheduled to be completed by June 2019 after which a nominal licence fee may be charged for ongoing use.