Joshua Hordern: Advancing Medical Professionalism

Professor Joshua Hordern’s research draws on theological and philosophical sources such as Aristotelian Thought and Christian Ethics to explore the meaning and practice of compassion, and what this can contribute to addressing the challenges of modern healthcare organisations. His new report Advancing Medical Professionalism (AMP), co-authored with the Royal College of Physicians, aims to support doctor’s satisfaction in their professional work and promote high quality healthcare for patients.

The current difficulty in recruiting, retaining, and ensuring the well-being of doctors has been described as a crisis, with health organisations warning it is a greater threat to the NHS than lack of funding. Yet this is set against a background of an ageing population with complex health needs, increasing the demands we put on the profession and making it even more important that they can operate at their best.

How therefore should we prepare and educate students and junior doctors for modern medical practice? Hordern and AMP co-authors, Professor Jane Dacre and Dr Jude Tweedie, explored what should constitute a doctor’s professional identity now and in the future, and the skills needed for modern practice. An extensive literature review, and series of workshops with doctors, patient representatives, academics and other health care practitioners, helped to identify seven key aspects of doctor’s working lives essential to professionalism – Healer, Patient Partner, Team Worker, Manager and Leader, Patient Advocate, Learner and Teacher, and Innovator – as well as the practical strategies and approaches to promote professional values, skills and attributes in each area.

Hordern says: “Most doctors go into the profession with a strong sense of vocation and commitment. But heavy workloads and the increasingly complex context in which they practice take their toll. We hope the approaches in AMP can support doctors in developing their vocation and professional identity, and refreshing their joy and confidence in the work they do. We also hope that the report’s practical ideas for institutional culture and practice will enable organisational leaders and managers at all levels to support doctors in sustaining their professional identity over the long-term.”

Now Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership is working with colleagues in Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to embed the report’s approaches in clinical training and practice.

Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council, University of Oxford Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund, Kingsley and Napley


Professor Joshua Hordern, is a member of Oxford University Faculty of Theology and Religion, Harris Manchester College and the Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership. He sits on the RCP Committee for Ethical Issues in Medicine. He co-authored the AMP report with Dr Judith Tweedie and Professor Dame Jane Dacre (former President, RCP).

Advancing Medical Professionalism can be downloaded here. A short summary of the report is available here.

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