Document Type


Publication details

Postprint of: Jefford, E, Fahy, K & Sundin, D 2011, 'Decision-making theories and their usefulness to the midwifery profession both in terms of midwifery practice and the education of midwives', International Journal of Nursing Practice, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 246-253.

Published version available from:

Peer Reviewed



What are the strengths and limitations of existing Decision-Making Theories as a basis for guiding best practice clinical decision-making within a framework of midwifery philosophy?

Each theory is compared in relation with how well they provide a teachable framework for midwifery clinical reasoning that is consistent with midwifery philosophy. Hypothetico-Deductive Theory, from which medical clinical reasoning is based; intuitive decision-making; Dual Processing Theory; The International Confederation of Midwives Clinical Decision-Making Framework; Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council Midwifery Practice Decisions Flowchart and Midwifery Practice.

Best practice midwifery clinical Decision-Making Theory needs to give guidance about: (i) effective use of cognitive reasoning processes; (ii) how to include contextual and emotional factors; (iii) how to include the interests of the baby as an integral part of the woman; (iv) decision-making in partnership with woman; and (v) how to recognize/respond to clinical situations outside the midwife's legal/personal scope of practice. No existing Decision-Making Theory meets the needs of midwifery. Medical clinical reasoning has a good contribution to make in terms of cognitive reasoning processes. Two limitations of medical clinical reasoning are its reductionistic focus and privileging of reason to the exclusion of emotional and contextual factors.

Hypothetico-deductive clinical reasoning is a necessary but insufficient condition for best practice clinical decision-making in midwifery.

Find in your library