Reflective practice

Module created June 2014 - Reviewed June 2018

When we stop to look in the mirror one morning – No really look – and by this I mean pause, examine in detail the grey hairs, the wrinkles, the furrowed brow, and we are shocked or alarmed by what we see, we may seriously consider our appearance and what we intend to do about it. The process of ‘Reflective Practice’ shares some similarities.

“Good Medical Practice requires you to reflect on your practice and whether you are working to the relevant standards.”

Reflection is not solely a means of learning for clinicians or medical academics and many of us gain insights into important aspect of our lives through the process of contemplation.

However, headlines in the medical press bear testimony to the problems that may arise when doctors fail to incorporate reflective practice into their continued professional development and its importance in maintaining performance is recognised by professional bodies (General Medical Council1, Nursing and Midwifery Council2).

It has long been recognised that competent doctors naturally reflect on clinical experiences and combine lessons from practice and theoretical knowledge to constantly fine tune their actions. Indeed it could be said that reflection is the vital ingredient of experiential learning. However, it is wrong to consider that reflective practice is merely a response to opportunistic learning events and it will be discussed later how it can also be applied to structured or planned learning events.

In 2012 the GMC detailed the requirements for successful revalidation on a 5-yearly cycle and how the evidence for this will be identified during the process of annual appraisal. In doing so the GMC emphasised the need not merely to collect information in a portfolio but to provide evidence that reflection has also occurred and, that this in turn, has enhanced understanding and acted as a vehicle for change. However, feedback from meetings has consistently identified a core of doctors who consider themselves to be ‘unable to reflect’; one quote reveals a doctor ‘without a reflective bone in my body’. In defining Reflective Practice and the tools by which this is achieved the aim of this resource is to help doctors provide examples of reflection in their appraisal folders.

“In discussing your supporting information, your appraiser will be interested in what you did with the information and your reflections on that information, not simply that you collected it and maintained it in a portfolio” 


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