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Reflection is nursing practice

By: Dr. Amy E. Rettig

Personal and professional self-nursing requires reflection. Yet, in our world today, reflection is seen as something special and ethereal. Only certain people can reflect and the rest of us can learn how to do it with special instruction.

The definition of reflection can be summed up as assessment, intervention, and evaluation. When nurses assess, we take in information and produce an intervention based on that information. When we evaluate, we form an opinion based on the result of that effect, causing the assessment, intervention, and evaluation cycle to continue. It’s iteration. It’s Nursing 101. In other words, we’re naturals at reflection as part of our professional practice. Nursing care doesn’t move forward without reflection.

So why is reflection so special? Do you remember your first in-person clinical? You had received a lot of information about human beings, their bodies, their minds, and maybe their spirits. In this clinical moment you were going to interact with an actual human being and incorporate all that you had learned and apply it. But this was a person and not an object or idea of a person. This person had their own agenda that you had to incorporate into your care. Remember how much time you spent working to get your nursing care plan just right? In some ways it was agonizing to try to remember, or look up, or ask questions of others so that your nursing care met the needs of this person. You were learning reflection.

Reflection, as a skill, is slow at first. There’s a stop moment, an intentional consideration. Your first in-person clinical was likely set up to allow for multiple stop moments, allowing you to consider your assessment, bring in the information and resources that meet the needs of your patient, and then to discuss with the patient the plan so you can evaluate the outcomes together. As a nurse, you build on your reflection skill each time you provide nursing care. Eventually, as your practice develops from novice to expert, you reflect without even having to think about it.

In self-nursing, we have many opportunities to stop and reflect throughout a year. The calendar prompts us when we start a new year or a new season. Faith traditions prompt us with significant holy days or times. Our professional practice prompts us throughout a shift. In terms of our self-nursing care plan, the work is the same: assess, intervene, and evaluate reflectively.

So, what happens when we use our professional nursing practice skills on ourselves? Something gets lost in our reflection. We forget that, just like the others we care for, we’re human beings. We have needs for a healthy human life. We may not stop to intentionally consider a particular situation, whether it’s a stressful situation or joyful. We just keep moving to the next thing. Or we may be unkind to ourselves and end up in a state of self-negativity. that’s difficult to leave. Fortunately, life is cyclical and we have choice, sometimes the same choice over and over, to choose self-nursing (reflection).

Dr. Amy E. Rettig provides nursing care for both professional and non-professional caregivers. She presents, publishes and studies well-being (developing the caregiver within) from the perspectives of holism, caring relationships, and systems.

The views and opinions expressed by My Nurse Influencer contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

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