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Reflective Practice As A Key To Professional Medical Learning

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The healthcare profession is an emotionally demanding career and because academic learning alone does not prepare individuals for the complex and daunting challenges they face during their practice, the need to continually assess oneself and look back at previous events or incidents to learn from them in order to make provision for a better outcome in the future has become an essential part of professional practice. This means reflecting on emotions and exploring how to deal with them in the future which ensures that practitioners are learning on an ongoing basis in so as to make improvements in their roles. This is referred to as reflective practice and according to Schon (1983), it is the process of learning through and from experience in order to gain new insights of self and/or practice. Ghaye and Lillyman (2000) agreed and described reflective practice as an active and a deliberate process to critically examine practice, where an individual is challenged to undergo the process of self-enquiry as this allows us to look at an experience and how it makes us feel and react, asking what is good and bad, and what can be learned.

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The purpose of this essay is to explore and discuss reflective practice as a key to professional learning and to critically discuss how this applies to my practice. I will discuss an incident that had occurred at my workplace during one of my shifts and through reflection, I will examine and evaluate the effects and contributions this incident had on my professional development as well as on the services provided by my employer. There are different models of reflection but to critically reflect upon this incident, I will use Gibbs (1988) cycle of reflection as it allows a systematic and structured analysis of an event. This model is cyclical and it encompasses knowledge, emotions, and actions and also advocates that experiences are repeated. According to Cherry and Jacob (2005), It is one of the most widely used models of reflection in the healthcare profession and It is also been quoted by The Royal College of Nursing (2012) as being the model of reflection which emphasizes the role of emotions and acknowledges their importance in the reflection process. The framework of Gibbs reflective cycle as in Gibbs (1988) is as follows:

  1. Description; What happened?
  2. Feeling; What were you thinking and feeling?
  3. Evaluation; What was good and bad about the experience?
  4. Analysis; What sense can you make of the situation?
  5. Conclusion; What else could you have done?
  6. Action Plan; if it arose again what would you do?

Step 1: Description

During this step, you describe the situation, event or activity in detail, without drawing any conclusions right away. The most common questions that can help create an objective description are:

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who were involved?
  • What did you do yourself?
  • What did other people do?
  • What was the result of these actions?

It should be noted that important details must not be left out. For instance, why other people were involved in the situation in question. All information that is key to better understanding the situation is relevant.

Step 2: Feelings

This phase is about the feelings that the event triggered, as well as what someone’s thoughts were during the event, activity or situation described in step 1. The intention is not to discuss the feeling in detail or comment on it directly. Emotions don’t need to be evaluated or judged. Awareness is the most important goal of this phase. Helpful questions that are often used:

  • What did you feel leading up to the event?
  • What did you feel during the event?
  • What did you feel after the event?
  • How do you look back on the situation?
  • What do you think other people felt during event?
  • How do you think others feel about the event now?

Because people often have difficulty talking about their feelings, it helps that they’re encouraged by the questions or someone asking these questions. This also demonstrates that the Gibbs Reflective Cycle can be used in an individual setting, or even in a coaching or counselling setting. The final two questions also allow one to see the event from other peoples’ perspectives.

Step 3: Evaluation

In this step, you ask yourself whether the experience of the event in step 1 was good or bad. Which approach worked well and in what way? Which approach didn’t work as well? It can be difficult for people to be objective about the situation. In order to still conduct a proper evaluation, the following questions may be helpful:

  • What went well during the event or activity?
  • Why was that?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • Why was that?
  • What was your contribution?
  • What contribution did other people make?

It is also worth evaluating bad experiences, because the subsequent steps in the Gibbs Reflective Cycle help people learn from it.

Step 4: Analysis

This phase is about what you have learned from the situation, event or activity. Because of the experience, you now know what to do in similar, future situations. This means that both positive and negative things and/or problems you experienced will be written down and analyzed individually. After all, people learn from mistakes. This analysis is often done together alongside step 3.

Step 5: Conclusion

This is the step where you take a step back and look at yourself from a distance and ask what else you could have done in this situation. The information gathered earlier is very valuable in this step and can encourage you to come to a good and useful conclusion. The following questions may be helpful:

  • To what positive experience did the event, situation or activity lead?
  • To what negative experience did the event, situation or activity lead?
  • What will you do differently if the event, situation or activity were to happen again in the future?
  • Which skills do you need to develop yourself in a similar event, situation or activity?

Step 6: Action plan

In this final step, actions are developed for future situations, events or activities. In the 5th step ‘Conclusions’, people makes concrete promises to themselves. The intention is to keep these promises. If everything went fine, you can promise yourself to act the same way next time. In areas where things didn’t go so well, you can promise yourself not to make the same mistakes again. What will be a more effective approach and which change will lead to actual improvement? In addition to an action plan, it’s wise to also make a schedule to discourage yourself from avoiding promises.


Thinking about one’s own experience can help to perform better or do things differently in the future. As the above shows, these experiences don’t have to be positive; negative experiences are also useful. Next time a similar situation presents itself, you’ll know it’s better to approach the situation in a different way. It stimulates you to think long and hard about how to do things better next time. This is what Gibbs Reflective Cycle is all about. People don’t just learn to understand certain situations better, but also learn to judge how the same situation can be handled in different ways in the future.

How to use it

Gibbs Reflective Cycle can be used in a variety of ways. First of all, any individual can use the cycle. If you’re open to actively changing yourself, the Reflective Cycle can be a helpful tool. Coaches also use the Cycle to make their coaches aware of (unwanted) behavior and find ways together for the coach to react differently to a situation. In addition, the Reflective Cycle is often used in higher education. Especially when carrying out internship assignments, the cycle can be a good tool to make an intern aware of his or her actions. The part about how you’ll handle a similar situation differently in the future is specifically aimed at reflecting on one’s own actions. After all, at the end of an internship period an intern should have developed him/herself enough to carry out internship assignments independently and behave professionally.

Disclaimer: This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers. You can order our professional work here.

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