As a midwifery writer, I get a lot of emails about written work. 'Aaah, where do I even start?!' is a common reaction from midwives and students when they are writing to me for advice about reflections.
But reflections are an awesome way of learning and can even be fun and stimulating (honest!).
In this post, we'll go through some basic strategies to make life easy for you when it comes to midwifery reflections.
Then I've got a personal tip that I used in reflections to help my learning. It's quite personal and isn't something I'd put in a reflection to be submitted to a tutor, but has been incredibly helpful for me and you're welcome to pinch the strategy if it works for you 🙂
Reflections are an essential part of learning for students and midwives. The basic concept is that you take a skill or event from practice, write about it, assess it using current evidence, and work out how to take your knowledge and findings forward to future care. Reflections also support your emotional wellbeing as a practitioner.
I believe they work because the structure helps you think better. If you can write about the lessons you've learnt clearly, the odds are your thinking itself will be clear.
Midwives and nurses tend to write reflections using 'relective models', which are a series of questions devised by nursing and midwifery academics to help guide the learning process.
The models are all very similar.
Students often talk about whether to write reflections in first or third person. I found first person to be more authentic for me ('I found venepuncture a difficult skill to master') as opposed to third person ('venepuncture was found to be a difficult skill to master'). Others find third person helps them write more academically.
In my own reflections, I included the emotional impact of events and often a lot of 'colour' too. For instance, one woman talked to me about how she has lost 'two big bottles of juice's worth of blood' and I thought this was an amazing way of reminding me how scary a haemhorrage actually is, and included a quote from her in a reflection.
One thing you must remember to do is anonymise the client and any identifying features within your reflection. Declare that you've done this at the beginning of your work, i.e. 'All identifying features including names, dates and locations have been changed to uphold confidentiality'.
Confidentiality is a huge part of the trust that women have for midwives so this needs to be upheld. Tutors and assessors need to see you can uphold confidentiality too.
The type of reflections used in portfolios or to prove your learning can be quite short, perhaps 500-1000 words.
If you are writing a reflective assignment of between 1500-3000 words this will involve more standard essay fare. Discussing current literature and your trust guidelines is a good idea. You'll usually need to include arguments, theories, midwifery philosophy, and discussion of the limitations of different types of care.
You may find it helpful to start with an introduction discussing the topic you have chosen, before you outline the events that occured, and then move on to the academic side of things.
I find ordering my points from least complex>most complex helps with structure and flow.
Making a list of points, cutting them up, and moving them around on a table or carpet until you have a structure you're happy with can work well too.
End with a conclusion summarising what you have learnt and how you'll bring this to women and families in your care.
On to my personal approach for reflections...
These days I think feelings are essential to discuss as part of learning.
Not 'emotions' but what I was actually feeling, in terms of the physical sensations in my body.
I'm a bit shy about revealing exactly what's going on in my body when I'm doing something new and scary but I'll try and give a representative example so you can see what I mean.
While I was learning to catheterise, I know at times I felt sick, hot, sleepy and as if I had a headache coming on. All of these were symptoms of me being out of my comfort zone.
No matter how grown up and professional you think you are, your body will always get first go at handling your emotions. The more honest we can be about that, the better.
If you start writing down the physical sensations of being uncomfortable in practice it can be so helpful. I’d be thinking, I’m feeling sick and hot – does that mean I’m ill? Or that I'm doing something wrong? Or just that I’m out of my comfort zone and I need to stick with it?
Being able to identify when I was out of my comfort zone, based on the symptoms in my body, was helpful. Once I identified the feelings they would often melt away. Then I'd have more energy for learning or support.
I'd include a few lines on the feelings in my body in a personal reflection - but this isn't something I'd include in a piece of work to be seen by anyone.
It's just a personal learning method of mine that you are free to use if you like it.
I hope this was helpful and good luck if you are writing a midwifery reflection! Do comment letting me know your thoughts and any tips you have for writing reflections.
I hope you're keeping warm and having a good run up to Christmas.
All my best, Ellie x