Anonymising reflective notes

When keeping a note, you should anonymise as much as possible.

When is information considered anonymised?

Information is anonymised if it does not itself identify any individual, and if it is unlikely to allow any individual to be identified through its combination with other information.

If what you are reflecting on relates to a patient you have seen or any other specific individual, you must take steps to anonymise the details. This doesn’t just mean not naming the patient; other things can be put together to identify an individual, like:

  • age
  • gender
  • job title
  • ethnicity
  • ward/GP practice your saw them at
  • medical condition.

If the GP only saw one 15-year-old female patient complaining of abdominal pain that day and those elements feature in your notes, even if the name is omitted, the patient is potentially identifiable.

You should think about whether using information that could identify the patient is necessary for the reflection to be effective. As a reflection is not a medical record, many details won’t be useful or relevant to what you did and how you felt. It may help to write a few versions of the reflection to get to the nub of the learning you want to take away from the experience.

Some useful tips for anonymisation

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Make your notes and pronouns gender neutral; talk about the patient and what they said or what they did.

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Don’t write down the date when you saw the patient.

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Use generic terms for stages of life like toddler, adolescent or older adult rather than putting down exact ages.

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Don’t name the GP practice or hospital where you saw the patient.

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Think carefully whether you need to note down things like the patient’s ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation; only talk about them if they are relevant to the reflection.

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Don’t name any medical conditions unless they relate directly to what you want to discuss in your reflection.