Demonstrating reflection

Use reflection as a tool

Reflection shouldn’t be onerous or a source of anxiety; it’s a tool to help you become a better medical student and ultimately a good doctor. You can fit it into your routine or use it as tool to think about significant experiences.

You can use pieces of reflection in discussions with personal tutors or other types of pastoral support and supervisors. They can help you to prepare for these discussions and structure the conversation.

Dr Sarah Smithson, Senior Lecturer in Medical Education, Keele University School of Medicine
Dr Sarah Smithson

Thinking about the apparently reluctant reflectors that I meet amongst the students. They tell me they are reflecting all the time in their head so don't need to write anything down. Yes, it's true, they don't have to write down every reflection but sometimes they will need to, so practice in doing this is likely to help. I also think that doing reflection in different ways, eg discussion with others, may lead to new insights into the value of reflection.

Sometimes you will need to share your reflections

There may be times when your medical school requires you to submit a piece of reflection to show that you have met a specific outcome. In Outcomes for graduates, some outcomes such as ‘Medical students must explain and demonstrate the importance of professional development and lifelong learning and demonstrate commitment to this’ (Outcomes for graduates, 2018, para 2p) are difficult to assess through things like knowledge tests or OSCEs, but can be demonstrated through a reflective piece. Your medical school will give you guidance on what to do for these pieces of work, and they can be a useful way of getting feedback on how you reflect.

Keerthi Senthil, student, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine

The many assignments throughout medical school which required reflection seemed, admittedly, tedious initially. However, in the later student years, I actually really appreciated the opportunities throughout the earlier years to develop my own style via trial and error in a very low pressure environment.

It is important to remember that once you start working as an F1 doctor you will be required to demonstrate ‘an ability to learn from and reflect on your professional practice and clinical outcomes’ (Generic professional capabilities framework, 2017, Domain 1). Your time as a medical student is when you can practice this and learn how to do it well.

This is an example of the sort of template you will have to fill in once you start working as an F1 doctor.

Screenshot of an example reflection document
Screenshot of an example reflection document

Reflection template in F1 portfolio
UK Foundation Programme Office, Feb 2019

Keerthi Senthil, student, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine

We all will have so many new skills to tackle and learn in the rapid transition to FY, from bleeping seniors to practical prescribing. I'm glad that reflection is, at least, one of those skills I feel less daunted by, having practised throughout medical school.