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Keywords:

  • reflection;
  • reflective practitioner;
  • critical incidents;
  • grounded theory

Learning about reflection An understanding of the nature and function of reflection in recognizing and developing nursing knowledge is a key concern. This paper describes a longitudinal study investigating the ways in which undergraduate student nurses reflected about practice as they progressed through a 3-year programme in adult nursing. The method was qualitative, with data gained from written critical incidents based on practice experiences and classroom discussions, and analysed using the constant comparative method. Findings revealed the range of issues students perceived as most important, and to some extent, changes in levels of thinking. A strong theme occurring throughout related to the complexity of learning what it means to be a professional and, in consequence, what they learn about themselves. Students’ preoccupation with emotional aspects of learning and nursing care was evident. They had difficulty in disentangling ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ involvement but later data indicates that they had begun to learn to differentiate between involvement as a general characteristic of nursing practice and a overwhelming personal attachment. They generally use their own and each others’ experiences to examine meaning, in preference to formal theoretical explanations although there is evidence students moved from acceptance of information to the questioning and critiquing of arguments and professional assumptions, particularly concerning their relevance and appropriateness for practice.