Reflection An Outstanding Tool For Nurses

Oct 20, 2020 | Aussie Nurse

Sometimes at work so many things happen in a day and all the things we have done can become a blur. After the shift is over, getting home to our everyday lives is busy and it doesn’t give much room to digest and acknowledge all the things that have happened in the day

Work stressors such as of taking part in an emergency procedure, dealing with difficult patients/co-workers, difficult work conditions or emotional strain- can happen so quickly and feels like we have left them behind at work after the event has happened.


After a while a thought from the experience that happened in the past weeks or even as long as months ago is something that can ‘boomerang’ back and the worse time for these unrevealed thoughts or feelings to creep back is when we try to sleep. Sometimes these thoughts won’t leave us and having disturbed sleep causes so much tossing and turning, even looking with glared eyes at the phone just for the time, makes for a very long night.


“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience”

 John Dewey

In nursing reflection is a tool and a practice to look back at an event in the workplace in an introspective manner. Looking back highlights both our mistakes and not forgetting our successes of how we handled a situation, it gives self awareness to remove any blindspots that we didn’t recognise before and change the way we make decisions in the future if a similar event was to occur again.


3 Different Ways Of Reflecting As A Nurse-


1. Pen To Paper

This type of reflection is where a person makes time to take a step back and look at the events that have happened by being introspective and reflecting on their own actions or even other factors that are external.

To reflect with writing is often done in private, it allows a person to get their true feelings written out without judgement from any other person and reduces the external pressures that could normally be felt by sharing in a group.

2. Reflecting With Others- 

The value of this type of reflective practice is the sharing of experiences and perspectives as a group member with peers. A stronger connection may be made between work colleagues especially if the work environment is supportive and the forming of ideas collectively as a group may boost motivation.

3. Reflection In Practice- 

This reflection happens when the activity is actually taking place, often with direct patient contact we use skills of observation and listening whilst ‘thinking on our feet’ to make decisions.

An amazing way nurses are reflective in practice is how often we consult with other nurses and health professionals about a situation that is happening in the moment. The focus is taking the opportunity on gaining a perspective from each of the different disciplines, to make decisions in a busy healthcare environment.

Benefits Of Reflecting –
  • Increases self awareness by identifying any gaps in knowledge/skills and make new learning goals 
  • Understanding the feelings/emotions that may be associated with the moment that is being reflected on 
  • Making different decisions as you may experience a similar situation in the future 
  • Help you to grow and develop within your nursing practice

Participating in regular reflection may help you feel more empowered because writing the lessons you’re learning and what you want to achieve within your nursing practice may add more direction for a future career pathway. Also, reflection can be put towards Continuous Professional Development (CDP) hours.


6 Questions To Ask For Personal Reflection –

1. Explanation of what happened?

2. What was good or bad about the event?

3. How did it make you feel?

4. What was important and is there anything that could have been done differently?

5. What’s a new learning from the event?

6. Is there an opportunity to incorporate something new into your own practice as a nurse?


As nurses we gain a lot of information from an individual patient that we are caring for, that can be extremely personal such as sensitive health or social problems.

During any kind of reflection NO information about a patient should be shared or breached in any way. The sharing of any information can be harmful to the patient and nurses must uphold and comply with confidentiality and privacy obligations as per NMBA Nurses Code of Conduct (Australia, see link in resources).



As professionals we do work that matters and not always having the time in a day to make sense of situations may crop up sometime in the future and a cost may be losing valuable sleep.

Taking the time to use reflection as a tool helps us to look back at what events have happened, it helps a nurse to respond better if they are put in a similar situation again or even may allow a person the effort to move and grow within their nursing career. 



(Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash)

Pro Tip – Having a pen and paper by the bed may help to get the thoughts out when they surface and recover some much needed sleep – Aussie Nurse

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