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How do I reflect effectively?

Post date: 13/12/2016 | Time to read article: 4 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

Dr Mark Dinwoodie, Director of Education at Medical Protection, discusses the importance of reflection and Dr Ayaz Khalid, a foundation doctor, shares his top tips for reflective practice

Reflecting on what we do in everyday clinical practice is a good way of considering whether how we treat our patients is as effective as we would like it to be, and identifies ways that we can improve.

While it may be that we are practising optimally it is likely that there are areas of our practice that could be improved. Reflection is an important part of maintaining competence. It helps identify learning needs, contributes to quality improvement and provides a way of self-monitoring our performance.

What are the benefits of reflection?

  • It enables you to gain greater insight into how you think and act
  • It helps you develop a new way to tackle problems and explore them in a structured and meaningful manner. This may reduce risks for the future, or provide a better way to tackle a similar problem next time
  • Using the skills of reflection in your everyday practice will help you reflect on incidents, good and bad, to make changes for safer practice.

The ability to reflect on experiences is an important skill for all doctors. As you will know, you are required to evidence your reflective practice in your ePortfolio as part of the Foundation Programme. The reflection section includes a range of tools to help you contemplate your experiences as a foundation doctor, consider your learning needs and manage your career.

Below, Dr Ayaz Khalid – a foundation doctor and a member of Medical Protection – shares helpful tips to help you manage your reflective practice.

Tips for effective reflection

Dr Ayaz Khalid, a foundation doctor working in Cumbria, shares his top tips for achieving effective reflective practice

Stepping back and analysing our day is essential if we want to gain anything more meaningful from our foundation years. It is a skill we can all develop. A lack of reflective practice may mean we walk around unaware of our behaviour and its consequences, unaware of the opportunities around us and unaware of the areas in which we need to develop.

My top tips

  1. Time

    Blocking time and linking it to other duties that you carry out helps to ensure reflective practice is consistent. For example, dedicate 30 minutes immediately after you finish work.

  2. Solitude

    Select a place where you can’t be disturbed or distracted so that you can concentrate fully on your reflection.

  3. Question

    Ask the right type of questions to help find the best solution. For example, “What did I benefit from today?” and “How could I have managed that interaction/patient/situation better?”

  4. Honesty

    Don’t sugarcoat any insights you may have. This will increase your self-awareness and awareness of your developmental needs; sometimes bitter realities will make you strive for the better.

  5. Journal

    Always write your thoughts down to help track your progress.

These are just a few points that can help you reflect deeply. The more we reflect, the more meaning we will be able to derive from every experience. Like any skill, with practice it will become second nature.

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