Why do we use critical reflection?
Critical reflection is about accountability and protecting oneself and the public; it’s a professional way of acknowledging our decisions and outcomes from our actions.
We may also need critical reflection as part of a regulation process for a professional or governing body.
When we reflect, we should analyse our cases critically to learn from any wins, challenges or errors made during the event. Without this, we keep going around in circles, making the same mistakes repeatedly.
That’s why critical reflections are crucial for osteopathic students, who gain from constant self-feedback, tweaking their approach until they master a technique.
The same might be said for something simple, like using a new study approach; it doesn’t have to be clinical.
Why is Critical Reflection helpful?
It demonstrates our growth.
It highlights our strengths and weaknesses.
It allows us to evaluate our actions before we repeat them.
It shows us what works in our business model and what doesn’t.
It allows us to change direction.
It highlights the need for areas of improvement.
It captures where we are doing well and could help others in the same space.
It makes us realise who we should reach out to for help.
A simple example
Imagine you go grocery shopping. You’re tired and want to get home. You overfill your bags, knowing one isn’t particularly strong, but you do it anyway.
On the way to the house, the bag breaks, smashing a glass bottle. You curse under your breath. In that moment, you realise something needs to change.
1) Take extra bags.
2) Go shopping more often, so you need less groceries.
3) Buy more robust bags.
4) Use online shopping and get your shopping delivered.
5) Eat at work Monday to Friday to reduce your need to go shopping.
6) See the extra movement as exercise and embrace the additional trip to the car.
7) Ask your partner to shop with you so you have an extra pair of hands.
Any of these could make a change for the better, and one will work.
We go through this process daily, so we use critical reflection without thinking about it. It’s simply evaluating an event and choosing a different approach next time (if applicable).
Let’s look at Critical Reflection in practice.
Observation, reflection, and experimentation are three fundamental means of acquiring knowledge. When we observe, we collect facts and gain information; reflecting on them allows us to combine them and understand their implications. Finally, experimenting with this combined knowledge provides a means to verify its accuracy and improve efficacy.
For instance, when learning anatomy, we collect facts and reflect on what we’ve learned. We then combine this with practical application to enhance our therapeutic proficiency.
Experimenting like this with combined knowledge will help us develop skills such as palpation and assessment to a point where we feel competent and safe.
That’s why reflective practice is essential to both learning and professional practice.
When writing critical reflections, it’s essential to be selective and not cover everything. Focus on crucial points, whether emotional or practical, and explore them in depth. Reflect on past events and how they might impact future activities. For instance, if you encounter a dog with a pathology outside your scope of practice, you might go home and research the condition to ensure you can provide safe and effective treatment in the future.
By continuously learning and improving your skills, you will be better prepared (to handle similar situations) in the future.
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