The Use of Reflection in Emergency Medicine Education


  • Presented at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine annual meeting, Chicago, IL, May 2012.

  • The authors have no relevant financial information or potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

  • Supervising Editor: Brian Zink, MD.

Address for correspondence and reprints: Aaron W. Bernard, MD; e-mail:


ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2012; 19:978–982 © 2012 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine


Reflection is a cognitive process in which new information and experiences are integrated into existing knowledge structures and mental models, resulting in meaningful learning. Reflection often occurs after an experience is over, promoting professional development and lifelong learning. However, a reflective emergency physician (EP) is also able to apply reflection in real time: self-monitoring, coping with the unexpected, and quickly thinking on his or her feet to solve complicated, unique, and challenging clinical problems. Reflection is a skill that can be taught and developed in medical education. Evidence demonstrating the value of teaching reflection is emerging that substantiates longstanding educational theories. While a few educators have started to explore the use of reflection for emergency medicine (EM) learners, the potential for broader application exists. This review summarizes the literature regarding reflection in medical education and provides a basic primer for teaching reflection.