Doctors get advice on how to reflect

By Olive Carterton
baroque, Victorian mirror on a gray wall

Reflective practice is ‘the process whereby an individual thinks analytically about anything relating to their professional practice with the intention of gaining insight and using the lessons learned to maintain good practice or make improvements where possible’ – AoMRC and COPMeD

New guidance to help doctors with reflection has been widely welcomed by independent practitioners and medical bodies.

The advice, setting out key points and principles on being a reflective practitioner, comes after doctors called for clearer information on what reflection meant – and how best to do it.

Published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), the Conference of Postgraduate Medical Deans (COPMeD), the GMC and the

Medical Schools Council, it outlines the importance of reflection for personal development, as a way of demonstrating insight, to help learning and identify opportunities to improve patient safety.

Key guidance points include:

  • Reflective notes do not need to capture full details of an experience, but should focus on learning;
  • Reflection is personal and there is no one way to reflect;
  • Having time to reflect on both positive and negative experiences is important;
  • Group reflection often leads to ideas that can improve patient care;
  • Tutors, appraisers and employers should support individual and group reflection.

COPMeD chairman Prof Sheona MacLeod said reflection was an important part of professional practice. It enabled doctors to assess how well they were performing, as well as identifying learning needs and enabling improvements to be made to their practice. But many doctors found it difficult.


Prof Carrie MacEwen

AoMRC chairman Prof Carrie MacEwen said: ‘Being able to reflect on all aspects of clinical care is important to improve the way we look after patients.

‘This guidance and the reflective practice toolkit developed by COPMeD and the academy, which we are publishing in parallel, should reassure all doctors that it is possible to record events in a way that optimises learning and promotes active change in practice based on this learning.’

 The guidance is on the GMC’s website

 The reflective practice toolkit, including templates and examples to use alongside the guidance, is available on the academy’s website