How to Write a Nursing Reflective Essay (Guide for Nurse Students)

Written by Brandon L.
January 23, 20248 min read
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If you are a nursing or medicine student, you are aware that you will come across or have already come across assignments requiring you to write a nursing reflection essay. At first, such a task always appears challenging, but given the understanding of the steps, things flat out, and you can write reflective essays and get better grades.

Reflective practice is highly encouraged in nursing. Reflection entails making sense of situations, events, actions, and phenomena in the workplace.

As a nursing student, you will be asked to write a reflective essay on your clinical placement, practicum, shadowing experience, shadow health DCE activities, personal nursing philosophy, why you want to become a nurse, nursing program, ethical dilemma, knowledge, skills, and abilities, systems, and processes.

The easiest way to complete the reflective essay assignment is by first determining what reflective writing entails, its significance, its steps, and some of the best tips that form the core of this ultimate guide.

Basics of Reflective Writing in Nursing

Reflective writing is an analytical writing practice where the writer describes a real or imaginary event, scene, phenomenon, occurrence, or memory, including their takeaway. It entails the critical analysis of an experience, including recording how it has impacted you and what you intend to do with the new knowledge or how to act when such an occurrence recurs.

As you document the encounter, you can use first-person pronouns and write subjectively and objectively. This means that you can decide to either use personal experiences alone or support these experiences using citations from scholarly sources.

When writing a reflective essay in nursing, you must recount the events and give critical detail of how the events shaped your knowledge acquisition. Reflection helps nursing students develop skills in self-directed learning, which is directly associated with high motivation and improved quality of care.

In most cases, reflection occurs on what went well and what went wrong. It could be a successful operation, a thank you note from a patient, a patient who regained their health faster, or a new nursing care plan that worked. However, it can also be about adverse events such as death, postoperative complications, death of an infant at birth, dissatisfied patient, medical error, or a failed procedure.

As a nursing student, when you learn to reflect on situations, you grow to become a professional nurse who diligently does their noble duty.

When writing a reflective essay, you begin by setting the scene (explaining what, where, how, and who-the situation), detailing how you felt (emotional state), why it happened (making sense of the situation), critical review and development of insights, a note on what was learned, and strategies to address future recurrence.

Your professor may ask you to write a nursing reflective paper about various topics in your course or your experience working in a group, how you solved a problem, a healthcare issue, or clinical practice. Consider the following example of a reflective statement in nursing; in my clinical practices, I realized I focused more on the technical aspects but failed to explain what it was doing to improve their health. I would like to understand more about listening to patience and their concerns to better care for them.

As you will notice later, these reflective stages are structured into different reflective models and frameworks that we will explore in-depth. So, with the understanding of what comprises reflective writing and its importance in nursing, let's now get solid on the structure.

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Structure of a Reflective Essay in Nursing

A reflective essay is an analytical writing piece describing and evaluating encounters or experiences. When asked to write one, you should know that an excellent reflective essay consists of different parts, just like a typical academic essay. It comprises the cover or title page, introduction, body paragraphs, conclusions, and a references page.

Title Page

The title page contains information about the assignment. If you are writing the reflective essay in APA, include these on the title page:

When writing in Harvard format, the title or the cover page will consist of the following:

Introduction

The introduction begins with an attention grabber or a hook sentence to attract readers' attention. It should then explain the essay's purpose and signpost the ideas that will come later in the essay. The introduction also has a thesis statement at the end of the paragraph- the last sentence. The thesis is concise, clear, and relatable and should reflect your position.

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of a reflective essay can be three or more, depending on the length of the essay. Essentially, the body comprises 80% of the total word count.

The first paragraph is where you describe the situation, including the events, why they occurred, how they occurred, and those involved.

The second paragraph entails your personal feelings or reaction to the situation and how it made you feel.

The third paragraph can include making sense of the situation. You have to think about why things happened the way they did. You should also critically review and develop insights based on the situation. Finally, think of the factors that could have influenced the situation.

The next paragraph should explain how the event or situation will change your practice, approach, decisions, perspective, or perception. This is where you evaluate the experience by detailing the knowledge and skills you took from the experience.

The last body paragraph should entail a critical reflection on the learning opportunities. First, describe the situation and what it made you learn. Next, elaborate on how you intend to make yourself better poised to address such situations.

Mostly, you should structure the body of your essay as per the preferred nursing reflective model.

Conclusion

After everything else falls into place, you need to summarize the information you presented in the essay. Then, finally, restate your thesis and have a call to action to bring a sense of closure to your readers.

Steps for Writing a Nursing Reflection Essay � The Guide

When assigned to write a reflective essay for your nursing class, here are the surefire steps to get you to success.

Read the instructions

The first step after receiving an assignment is to begin reading the instructions. as you read, note what your instructor or professor expects in the paper you will submit for marking.

Reading instructions helps you to get informed on the scope of the paper, word count, number of references and pages, and the formatting style to use.

Besides, you also get to plan your paper with the deadline highlighted in the instructions.

Brainstorm

You need to get a conducive environment where you can start writing.

The first step of writing is to brainstorm about situations during your clinical hours when you were shadowing a Nurse Practitioner or one you have read about.

Assess whether the situation or scenario you have thought, encountered, or chosen can help you write a reflective essay that meets the requirements.

Research and Plan

After choosing a scenario, the next step is researching the best reflective model.

You can use your class text, the instructions, the college library, course readings, and online nursing journals to get articles and resources with information about specific reflective models.

Select the best reflective model and take notes on the steps it entails.

As you research, write down notes on how to address your paper based on your selected framework or model of reflection. Additionally, research nursing journal articles with information you can use when critically analyzing a situation.

Plan how you will handle the paper as well. For instance, as you research, develop a thesis statement that grounds your entire paper, then draft an outline on how to develop the thesis.

Write an Outline

Outlining is a crucial aspect of writing. It helps you envision how you will meet the objective of writing a reflective essay. As an essential part of the essay writing process, outlining helps create a good flow of ideas and can come in handy in helping you overcome writer's block. Your outline should comprise the following:

With the outline done, you should take a break and resume writing your first draft of the nursing reflection essay. Writing with an outline helps avoid mistakes and also helps you write faster.

Describe the Experience

Once you have identified the relevant experience, begin describing it chronologically.

Describe the experience that prompted you to consider nursing your ideal career goal. Think of this experience's key elements, such as the setting, patient demographics, and significant events that impacted you.

Show how these events changed your perspective on life. Ensure you are as descriptive as possible to paint a clear picture for readers.

Consider the following questions to come up with a good description:

Set the context of this experience by giving relevant background information. Ensure you are objective and pay attention to the facts.

Provide a Reflection

Talk about your feelings and thoughts concerning the particular experience you went through. You have to be honest and open up about your initial expectations and challenges you faced at each stage of the experience. The following questions can help you come up with a good reflection:

Analyze the Experience

Description of an experience is essential, but so is analysis. You have to move beyond the surface and give a critical analysis of your experience.

State your actions, and your overall experience will give insights into your experience. Think of how the experience has impacted your actions, feelings, and thoughts.

Give an Evaluation

Evaluate the skills and knowledge you got from the experience. Show how you can apply these skills and knowledge in your nursing practice. Also, state the actions and interventions you took during the nursing experience.

State whether you achieved the desired outcome and if there are any specific areas that you need to improve on.

Talk about how you built or improved skills like communication, teamwork, and critical thinking.

As you evaluate the experience, identify what you believe to be your strengths and weaknesses in the nursing experience. What have you learned from the experience? State the areas where you excelled and what abilities contributed to your success.

Talk about how those you were with during the clinical experience complimented you. Similarly, acknowledge your weaknesses.

What kind of mistakes did you make, and how did you improve them? Talk about the tasks that drain you most during the experience.

Illustrate Learning

Demonstrate elements of deeper thought and reflection levels. This is a great point to include nursing theories in your reflection essay to support analysis of your experience.

Relate your experiences to the theoretical frameworks you were taught in class. This is effective learning and will demonstrate your ability to apply knowledge to real-life nursing situations.

Doing this will also show that you can effectively deduce different things from observations made during the reflection process.

Ensure you also demonstrate a change in perspective, as this will prove that you learned something from the experience.

Write Your Conclusion

Conclude by summarizing your points and highlighting the lessons learned.

The lessons you reached as part of your reflection should support your overall conclusion.

Also, restate your thesis statement.

Come Up with an Action Plan

Now that you have learned from your reflection develop an action plan for future nursing practice.

This part should contain all the details you have learned and actions needed to improve when faced with a similar situation. Consider the following questions:

Ensure you identify areas to improve and set realistic goals to enhance your nursing skills. Discuss how you intend to seek additional education, training, or mentorship to address your shortcomings.

Finally, end the essay with a happy note so readers know you learned something from the experiences.

Proofread, Edit, and Polish

After doing your first draft, take a break to relax and get out of the writing mood - it helps you to become objective.

You can then resume reading out loud to yourself, make necessary tweaks, and ensure that every part you include meets the rubric requirements.

Edit for grammar, punctuation, tenses, voice, spelling, and use of language. You should also proofread the essay to adhere to the style, organization, and presentation requirements.

Ensure that all the in-text citations are accounted for in the reference list and are up-to-date. You are good to go when you have an essay that meets all the instructions.

Finally, you can submit the paper for grading.

Writing is not everyone's cup of tea. For that reason, you can hire a nursing reflection essay writer from our website to assist you in crafting a top-grade paper. In addition, we have nursing writers whose forte is writing various nursing papers.

Choosing the suitable Reflective Model or Framework

As you can see above, many reflective models are used for your reflective essay. We have not exhaustively listed and expounded on all of them. Other reflective models and frameworks you can also consider when writing a reflective essay in nursing include:

Note that most nursing instructors will often suggest the models they prefer for you to use in your essay.

For example, in most nursing reflective essays. Whichever the case, readily available information expands on each model to make it easier to write a reflection essay on a specific aspect of nursing education or practice.

Read the assignment rubric and instructions to understand the specific model. If it is unclear, ask for clarification from your instructor early enough.

Tips for Writing a Good Nursing Reflective Essay

As you try to figure out how to write a nursing reflective essay, keep the following tips in mind.

Choose the Right Topic

If the instructions from your professors involve choosing a topic for the reflective essay, you must select one that is meaningful to you.

This will ensure you can easily write and easily develop relevant elements about the topic. Therefore, take time to pick a topic that you find interesting.

As you write, ensure you stay on topic, whether sharing a one-off event or a recurrent story.

Use the Right Tone

A reflective essay is more personal, unlike other types of academic essays. This means you don't need a strict or formal tone.

Since this is about your experiences, use personal pronouns such as I and Me.

Be Vulnerable

You must be extremely vulnerable to learn how to write a reflective essay in nursing.

Be open about your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about something you went through that sparked an interest in nursing.

It's okay to share mistakes or things you did wrong that eventually led you to this career path.

Choose the Right Focus

A reflection essay is all about narrating your experience during the nursing experience.

While including other people in your experience is okay, please let them not be the center of your reflection.

This is your essay, so you should be the focus of attention.

Keep it Brief

A good nursing reflection essay should be between 300 and 800 consciously written words. Because of this length, you must only write relevant information about your reflection. Refrain from lengthy reflections, as they make it difficult to pass your points across.

Convey Your Information Wisely

Even though a nursing reflection essay is about your personal experiences, it doesn't mean you should reveal everything about yourself. Ask yourself whether something is appropriate before including it in your paper.

Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Reflection Essay in Nursing

A good reflection essay involves reflecting on your nursing studies and practices throughout school and career to demonstrate your competence. For this reason, there are certain mistakes you should be aware of when writing an essay.

Not including a Personal Story

Like food tastes bland without salt, so does a reflection essay without a personal story. At the center of a reflection essay is You. This means the essay should focus on your personal story that led you to want a nursing career. A lot of times, students miss out on this instead of talking about their story. You need more than just the personal qualities you think will be a great fit for the nursing program; you must also share a story that shows how well you contributed to nursing care.

Failing to Share Your Experience

You will lose points when you fail to include nursing-related experiences in your reflection essay. Mentioning that you want to be a nurse is great, but failing to show specific events that led to the desire will cost you a great point.

Plagiarizing Your Essay

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense because it is considered taking other people's ideas and using them as your own without crediting the author. So, provide relevant citations and references for any ideas that aren't your own. Also, an AI will not write your essay as a human writer would. 

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Sample of a Nursing Reflective Essay 

The following is a sample of a nursing Reflective essay using Gibb's Model of Reflection. Use this sample to guide you when writing your own.

Introduction 

Communication is an important element in healthcare practice as it determines patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes. This essay will focus on reflecting on an experience I went through with a 40-year-old diabetic patient who also had a foot infected with an ulcer. When I approached the patient to sign the consent form, I noticed that he wasn't happy because of the news given to him about his health. I concluded that there must be a communication dilemma. I will reflect on the experience using Gibb's Model of Reflection. Using this model, I will identify and discuss the actions taken to resolve the issue.

Description 

This incident happened a few months ago when I was working as a wound nurse in a Methodist hospital in my hometown. I was part of a care team handling the case of a 40-year-old male patient with diabetes and an infected diabetic foot ulcer.

After careful examination, a team comprising various specialists concluded that his leg needed amputation below the knee. After making this decision, the team left, and I was asked to give the patient a consent form to sign. When I came back from retrieving the form, I noticed the patient looked sorrowful because of the news given to him.

Feelings 

As soon as I saw the patient, I knew what he was going through. He perceived the situation to be irreparable, but I wasn't sure whether to console the patient or not. I was powerless and couldn't imagine what he was going through. At the same time, I was startled that the team left without showing any compassion. They could have handled the situation more delicately. I, on the other hand, could have relayed the information better. I wasn't sure whether my approach would be acceptable or appropriate.

Evaluation 

I always go back to that particular situation and wonder whether I could have acted better. The situation helped me better understand the importance of good communication in patient care, particularly in therapeutic care. Before the incident, I didn't acknowledge the role of nurses play in caring for patient's emotional needs. I realized nurses must show compassion and console patients in their low moments. 

Analysis 

Most healthcare professionals do not know how to deliver bad news to patients. They find the process extremely challenging and always feel psychologically unprepared. This has a negative impact on patients and could lead to bad health outcomes. Furthermore, how information is relayed could impact a patient's adherence to treatment. Because of these effects, multiple protocols and approaches were developed to help with communicating bad news to patients. One of the approaches that was proposed is emotion-centered. This proposes that a healthcare provider acknowledges how sad the patient is and builds a professional relationship based on empathy and sympathy.

Action Plan

I now understand the essence of communicating bad news with compassion. The experience allowed me to look closely at different aspects of my professional development that needed more improvement. Thus, I plan to be more empathetic and speak up in support of patient's emotional and psychological well-being, especially when presented with traumatic news about their health.

Additionally, I now understand I am not powerless when dealing with a sorrowful patient. I believe I have learned from my experience, and I'm not able to communicate well with patients any more.

Conclusion 

The experience allowed me to value good communication in nursing and the need to incorporate it into daily nurse-patient interaction. Nurses must learn how to deliver bad news and manage patient's sorrow. This has been and will continue to be my biggest priority in patient care.

References

Street Jr, R. L., Makoul, G., Arora, N. K., & Epstein, R. M. (2009). How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician–patient communication to health outcomes. Patient education and counselling, 74(3), 295-301.

Buckman, R. (1992). Breaking bad news: why is it still so difficult? BMJ: British Medical Journal, 304(6842), 886.

Ptacek, J. T., & Eberhardt, T. L. (1996). Breaking bad news: a review of the literature. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 276(6), 496-502.

Final Word

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