Reflective accounts

Reflective practice

A CPD article improved Elena Alegado’s knowledge of reflective practice

A CPD article improved Elena Alegado’s knowledge of reflective practice


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What was the nature of the CPD activity, practice-related feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The CPD article provided a useful introduction to reflection, defined as a method of using experiential knowledge to enable professional and personal development, while reinforcing continuous learning.

What did you learn from the CPD activity, feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The article stated that reflection has three components: reflection before action, which involves thinking about what aims might be achieved by acting in a certain way; reflection in action, which relates to conduct while undertaking a task and any required real-time modifications; and reflection on action, which involves looking retrospectively at how practice was executed and analysing the information gathered in terms of knowledge, new learning and professional development. 

The article outlined several models of reflection. For example, Gibbs’ model consists of six stages: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan. Borton’s simpler model may be summarised in three questions: ‘what?’ (description), ‘so what?’ (exploration) and ‘now what?’ (translation into practice). I have learned it is important for the reflective model to be suitable for the individual and the situation.

Critical thinking and self-awareness are essential for meaningful reflection. It provides the understanding to reach a reasoned conclusion; it is what makes reflection a learning tool. Self-awareness is necessary for honest reflection; without understanding how situations may affect them personally, nurses cannot realistically plan ahead (reflection before action) or learn from what happened (reflection on action).

Reflection may take place in different ways, for example silently in thought, in discussions with colleagues or in writing. The article recommended taking notes during reflection, to provide a record of personal development, which can provide material for nurses’ revalidation portfolios.

How did you change or improve your practice?

I gained many insights from the article, and it has improved my understanding of reflective practice. For example, an underlying message of the article was that reflection is neither mysterious nor difficult. It is simply a way of thinking carefully that reminds nurses to consider aspects they might otherwise ignore.

The article acknowledged that nurses often associate reflection negatively with being judged, rather than positively with learning, because previously it was only when something went wrong that nurses were encouraged to reflect.

Reading the article encouraged me to ‘reflect on reflection’, by thinking about the reflection process and how it might be used as a learning tool. 

I intend to apply two aspects – of which I was previously unaware – to my practice: reflection before action, by anticipating the reactions of patients and colleagues so that I can plan more effectively; and participatory reflection, where my colleagues and I reflect and share conclusions about our group practice.

How is this relevant to the Code? Select one or more themes: Prioritise people, Practise effectively, Preserve safety, Promote professionalism and trust

As part of the theme of practising effectively, nurses must ensure their knowledge and skills are up to date. The article stated reflection is a practical tool that can help nurses maintain competencies and improve their practice, by using knowledge to support their development and reinforce learning.

Elena Alegado is a staff nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital, London


This reflective account is based on NS842 Nicol JS, Dosser I (2016) Understanding reflective practice. Nursing Standard. 30, 36, 34-40. These questions are the same as those on the NMC templates that UK nurses and midwives must use
for revalidation

Write your own reflective account 

You can gain a certificate of learning by reading a Nursing Standard CPD article and writing a reflective account. To write a reflective account for Nursing Standard, use the NMC reflective accounts form 

Complete the four questions about the CPD article you have just read, writing about 800 words in total. Find out how to submit your reflective account 

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