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Nursing Reflective Essay Guide

A nursing reflective essay is a detailed analysis describing an experience or event from your nursing clinical practice or classroom. Through reflection, you critically analyze the situation to gain new insights and identify areas for professional growth and development.

Key aspects of a reflective nursing essay

Detailed Description: Provide a vivid account recreating the experience, including the setting, those involved, Background information on the patient’s condition/needs, and the sequence of key events/actions.
Self-Reflection: Thoroughly examine your thoughts, feelings, assumptions, beliefs, rationale behind your actions, and your responses to the situation at each step.
Critical Analysis: Rigorously explore factors like your strengths/weaknesses, knowledge gaps, ethical issues, communication, problem-solving ability, and decision-making processes involved.
Alternative Actions: Consider other possibilities for how you could have responded or additional measures you should have taken to achieve better outcomes.
Key Realizations: Discuss the most significant conclusions about yourself, the situation, and patient care that you gained through conscious reflection.
Future Application: Explain how you will apply these important insights and lessons to enhance your clinical practice, professional judgment, and patient interactions moving forward.

Why Write Nursing Reflective Essays?

Reflective writing provides a structured way for nurses to:
Develop Critical Thinking: Analyze decisions, question assumptions, evaluate strengths/weaknesses objectively.
Build Emotional Intelligence: Cultivate self-awareness, empathy, relationship management abilities.
Enhance Clinical Practice: Reflect on effective communication techniques, demonstrate patient advocacy.
Achieve Personal Growth: Become a more insightful, self-motivated, continuous learner.
Demonstrate Professionalism: Show commitment to providing high-quality, ethical patient care.

Sarah, a nursing student, described feeling overwhelmed when a patient’s condition rapidly deteriorated. She reflected on gaps in her knowledge about identifying symptoms, communication lapses with the care team, and how she froze instead of responding quickly.
Her reflections allowed Sarah to research the condition more thoroughly, work on assertive communication skills, and devise a portable “code procedure” cue card so she could respond decisively despite anxiety in future emergencies.

How to Structure a Reflective Nursing Essay

There are three main components:

  1. Introduction

Engage the reader by recreating the specific situation’s sights, sounds, and setting
Explain why this experience was meaningful/challenging
Provide relevant context like location, patient information, those involved

2. Body Paragraphs

Use a nursing reflective model or framework to deeply analyze the experience, such as:
Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Description of the experience
Feelings and thoughts
Evaluation (assess what was good/bad)
Analysis (make sense of the situation)
Conclusion (what you learned)
Action Plan (how you’ll apply lessons)

Driscoll’s Reflective Model

What? (Describe the experience)
So What? (Analyze the significance)
Now What? (Decide future action)

Each body paragraph should address one component, using:

Rich details to describe objectively
“I” statements examining thoughts/assumptions
Examples illustrating ideas
Consideration of alternatives
Discussion of broader issues like legal, ethical, cultural

3. Conclusion

Summarize the key points and personal insights
Explain how this experience has shaped your professional nursing philosophy
Discuss how you will apply these specific lessons going forward to improve clinical practice

Tips for an Insightful Reflective Essay

Use first-person perspective and honesty about your thoughts/mistakes
Move beyond simple description to explore the deeper “whys”
Don’t make judgments or assumptions; question and analyze them
Maintain a respectful, compassionate tone about patients
Incorporate ideas from nursing theory, philosophy, or research
Use examples from experience to illustrate points
Be thoughtful about including sensitive patient information

Related Articles

Reflective Models in Nursing

Bass’s Holistic Reflection Model


Why use Gibbs model of reflection in nursing?
In this qualitative study, it was demonstrated that the Gibbs’s reflective cycle is helpful in the clinical practice of MNS. It helps MNS reflect on clinical practice and translates clinical experience into a valuable experience for developing personal and professional development.

What are the six stages of Gibbs reflection?
One of the most famous cyclical models of reflection leading you through six stages exploring an experience: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan.

Why use reflective models in nursing?
It allows you to recognize your own strengths and weakness, and use this to guide on-going learning. By reflection you will develop your skills in self-directed learning, improve motivation, and improve the quality of care you are able to provide.

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