How to Write a Nursing Clinical Reflective Essay full guide (types & examples)

How to Write a Nursing Clinical Reflective Essay full guide (types & examples)

How to Write a Nursing Clinical Reflective Essay

When starting a reflective paper, self-reflection may seem like a straightforward task. However, delving into your own ideas and experiences is more challenging than it appears. If you’re struggling with how to approach a nursing clinical reflective essay, this article is here to help. It provides a guide on how to write, different types of reflections, and includes examples.

What is a Nursing Reflective Essay?

A nursing clinical reflective essay is a form of writing that explores your feelings, experiences, and viewpoints on a particular issue. For nursing students, reflective essays are a valuable tool to practice skills and broaden knowledge. Reflective practice in clinical settings is widely recognized as an important aspect of a healthcare professional’s work.

In today’s healthcare landscape, clinical reflection is considered an essential skill that every healthcare worker should regularly practice. Reflection has been used in physiotherapy to improve patient care, clinical supervision, teamwork, and clinical reasoning.

Properly executed reflective practice in nursing can enhance your competence as a clinical professional. A nursing clinical reflective essay allows aspiring healthcare professionals to articulate their expertise in the field.

How to Begin the Nursing Clinical Reflection Journey?

Reflection is crucial in a nursing clinical reflective essay as it ensures effectiveness and continued professional development in your clinical practice. Engaging in critical reflection in nursing requires professional guidance.

As a healthcare student, you may not initially start your reflective journey by keeping a diary of your daily clinical placements. A journal is often used, which involves answering thought-provoking questions that guide and facilitate reflection. Some of these questions may include:

– What happened?
– What led you to choose that approach?
– What worked well?
– Is there research to support your decisions?
– How could things have been improved?
– Which actions might work well for future implementation?

Writing your reflections is beneficial as it helps solidify the different stages of reflection. Once you develop the skills as a healthcare professional, you can engage in internal reflection throughout the day in a more formal manner, such as through writing, upon significant activities or events.

Preparations for Writing a Nursing Clinical Reflective Essay

Before embarking on the process of writing a nursing clinical experience essay, adequate preparation is essential. Writing a nursing clinical reflection essay is a lengthy process that requires complete focus on the chosen topic.

To ensure a successful writing process, it’s crucial to eliminate distractions:

– Turn off all electronic devices, including your mobile phone.
– Remove any items from your environment that may divert your attention from writing.
– Consider using earplugs if necessary.

Create a conducive learning environment:

– Attend to personal needs, such as using the restroom, eating, drinking, and meditating, as part of your pre-game routine.
– Get rid of any excitement or anxiety before starting, ensuring you have enough time set aside for focused writing.
– Prepare essential items, such as opening a notepad or creating a new Word file, and ensure you have all the necessary notes and materials within reach.


After setting up an ideal environment, the next important step is conducting research. Even though you are sharing your personal narrative, research is an integral part of any scholarly work. Start your search for creative ideas by exploring:

– Online healthcare journal articles.
– Resources available in your college reading room.
– Relevant materials from your course.

Regardless of the chosen topic, remember that most nursing essays follow a similar format. It’s important to make your story unique. Use the following questions as a framework for your nursing clinical reflective essay, and then fill in the content with your own experiences. If you can answer most of these questions accurately, you are on your way to an exceptional essay:

– What is the specific problem or issue?
– What is the underlying cause of this problem?
– Why is it important for us to be concerned about this problem?
– What is the best course of action to address the problem?
– What is the significance of your essay to humanity?

Create an Outline and a Draft

Planning is crucial in the process of writing a nursing clinical practice reflective essay. It helps ensure a logical flow of ideas and proper organization of arguments. With a well-developed outline, it becomes easier to make adjustments if something appears incorrect.

It’s always better to revise a section of your outline rather than revising an entire paragraph. Here’s a sample outline for your nursing clinical reflective essay:

– Hook
– Thesis

Main Body:
– 1st Point (evidence, examples, other supportive information)
– 2nd Point (evidence, examples, other supportive information)
– 3rd Point (evidence, examples, other supportive information)

– Restate the thesis statement

Finally, a Remarkable Phrase

After creating an outline, it’s a good idea to draft your nursing clinical reflection essay. This step helps you identify and rectify any potential errors before finalizing the essay. Now you have learned how to prepare and draft a nursing clinical reflective essay. But do you know the essential elements of the essay? The following are key elements to consider:

Elements of a Nursing Clinical Reflection Essay

– The introduction outlines the overall objective of your nursing narrative essay and provides readers with an understanding of the situation. The topic sentence, typically the last sentence of the introduction, is a crucial part of this paragraph. Your thesis statement should be concise, clear, and express your perspective.

Situation Illustration:
– As a reflective essay is based on past experiences, this section describes the relevant events. Include the most valuable and essential details.

Sharing Personal Feelings:
– This part explains your emotional reactions to the situations and how you developed emotional control.

Experience Evaluation:
– Summarize the knowledge and skills you gained during your clinical experience.

Reflection and Learning Opportunities:
– This section connects with the previous one. While you provided a summary earlier, now you’ll explain what this experience has taught you and describe your future self-development path.

– The conclusion should summarize the key points discussed throughout your essay.

Methods of Reflection in Nursing Clinical Essays

There are several methods of reflection, including various reflective practice scales and questionnaires. Each mode of reflection is equally important, as it:

– Provides a useful record for yourself.
– Serves as a memory cue.
– Encourages honest writing.
– Engages critical, objective, and deep thinking.

Two methods of reflection by Schon are reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action:

– Involves reflecting while actively engaging in an ongoing event.
– Practiced by professional practitioners.
– Involves “research on the spot,” where practitioners acquire new situational comprehension that leads to changes in the situation.
– Requires conscious attention to the task.
– Practitioners act as their own supervisors, questioning their actions through meta-reflection.

– Implemented by novice practitioners.
– Involves reflecting on biases, expectations, and beliefs after an event.
– Reflecting on what happened, the actions taken, and the outcome informs future actions.
– Reflection-on-action transforms expertise into knowledge in clinical practice.

Frameworks for Structuring Reflection in a Nursing Clinical Essay

Reflection in a nursing clinical reflective essay is an individualized activity, and the choice of framework is also personal. This ensures that you make the most of the reflection framework you select. Here are different frameworks to consider:

Gibb’s Cycle of Reflection in a Nursing Clinical Essay (1988):

– This model provides a structure for learning from experiences. The Gibb’s model of reflection enhances critical thinking skills for nurses and allows for insightful thoughts on clinical cases and

the origins of adverse events. It consists of six cycles that guide you when writing your essay:

1. Description:
– Provide a concise background and description of the event you’re reflecting upon.

2. Feelings:
– Focus on your feelings and thoughts during and after the event.

3. Evaluation of Experiences:
– Reflect on the experience by responding to questions such as your reactions, others’ reactions, and whether the issue was resolved.

4. Analysis:
– Demonstrate your reflection on the experience, identifying factors that hindered or enhanced the experience, and evaluating what went well and what could have been improved. Connect your experience to relevant literature.

5. Conclusion:
– Summarize the results of your reflection on the event.

6. Action Plan:
– Outline any actions or changes you plan to implement based on your reflection.

Frameworks for reflection provide structure and guidance for your nursing clinical reflective essay, allowing you to thoroughly analyze your experiences and extract meaningful insights.

John’s Model Structure of Clinical Reflection (2000)

This model is organized and includes a set of questions that guide reflectors throughout the process. Some users find this model somewhat restrictive. John’s model consists of five categories of questions:

1. Description:

– Phenomenon: Elaborate on the current and present experience.
– Causal: Identify the necessary factors that led to the experience.
– Context: Highlight the significant background factors that contributed to the experience.
– Clarifying: Discuss the major reflection processes related to the experience.

2. Reflection:

– What did I attempt to achieve?
– What motivated my intervention?
– What were the consequences of my actions for myself, the patient or family, and my colleagues?
– What were my feelings during the experience?
– What were the patient’s feelings about it?

3. Influencing Factors:

– Identify the internal factors that influenced your decision-making.
– Discuss the external factors that influenced your decision.
– Reflect on the knowledge sources that did or should have informed your decision.

4. Evaluation:

– Evaluate the choices you made.
– Reflect on the consequences of your choices.
– Examine how the experience has influenced your knowledge (empirically, aesthetically, personally).

5. Learning:

– Summarize the lessons learned from the experience and how it will impact your future practice.

Driscoll’s/Borton’s Framework of Development (1970)

Borton’s three questions: What? So What? and Now What? form the basis of John Driscoll’s experiential learning. These questions provide a simple structure to support reflection. The Driscoll’s framework is widely used by healthcare professionals and endorsed by expert bodies. Examples of Borton’s questions used in the reflection of clinical practice nursing essay are as follows:

1. What?

– Which actions were taken by the individuals involved?
– What role did I play?
– What happened?
– What actions did I take?
– What problems were identified?

2. So What?

– Analyze the reflection and its significance.
– What lessons did you acquire?
– What was important?
– What results did you gather?

3. Now What?

– Focus on the next steps and the implications of your learning for future practice.
– What actions should you take now?
– What are the repercussions?
– How will you resolve the issue or improve the outcome?
– How will what you have learned from the experience shape your future practice?

You have learned about two significant learning frameworks and reflective structures for clinical practice. It is important to note that reflection is a skill that requires practice. When choosing a framework, consider different options based on what works best for you and the situation.

Daily reflections, such as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) events, may be well-suited to Borton’s approach, while a more comprehensive framework like Gibbs’ may be more suitable for scholarly work or significant events at work.

To build an evidence-based argument, it is essential to research relevant literature, reflect on personal experiences, and explore anecdotal evidence, all of which should be incorporated into your clinical reflections. This helps to establish a research-based approach to reflective practice.

Reflective Writing in a Nursing Clinical Reflective Essay Assignment

For a nursing student’s final clinical experience essay, simply recounting events is not enough. Dumping all your thoughts and feelings in a haphazard manner is also not appropriate. Reflective writing requires the inclusion of facts or examples to support your reflections and an analytical approach.

Striking a balance between personal perspective and the demands of sound academic practices and critical thinking is crucial. This involves forming an argument or line of reasoning. Here are some useful pointers:

– Demonstrate that you are well-informed and have studied existing literature, explaining its significance in your personal development.
– Recognize that situations

are rarely simple and straightforward, and demonstrate an understanding of this complexity.
– Articulate the connection between your practice/experiences and the literature you have read in an effective manner.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nursing Clinical Reflective Essays

When tasked with writing a nursing clinical reflective essay, you may have various questions. Here are some of the frequently asked questions:

Why do you write a nursing clinical reflective essay?

A nursing clinical reflective essay allows you to describe your feelings about a past experience, how you have grown, and what you have learned from the experience. It is often written as a journal entry to demonstrate how your perspectives have evolved over time.

What are the characteristics of a good clinical nursing reflective essay?
A good clinical nursing reflective essay combines objective and subjective aspects. It integrates academic research with personal experiences and demonstrates how experiences shape behavior and the skills gained from them.

What are the three fundamental components of a nursing clinical reflection essay?

A nursing clinical reflection essay should be well-structured and divided into three sections. It should have a clear introduction that presents the problem, a main section that analyzes the causes, and a conclusion that discusses possible remedies and the impact on the author.

Which is the best model to use in a nursing clinical reflective essay?

The Gibbs framework is one effective option for nurses. It is straightforward and easy to understand, making it suitable for various settings.

Things to Avoid in a Nursing Clinical Reflective Essay

When writing a nursing clinical reflective essay, it is important to avoid common mistakes. Some of these mistakes include:

– Not mentioning your personal nursing experience: A nursing admission essay is stronger with a real-life anecdote that goes beyond simply listing personal attributes.
– Plagiarizing: Plagiarism is unethical and can lead to failing grades or rejection from nursing schools. Always properly reference your sources and tell an original story.
– Constantly repeating yourself: Avoid rewriting information from the introduction in the conclusion. Instead, consolidate your ideas and conclude your essay in a dynamic manner.
– Not providing enough arguments to support your claims: Clearly explain why you want to attend a particular institution and avoid leaving it implied.

Additional Tips for Writing a Nursing Clinical Reflective Essay

Before starting to write your nursing clinical reflective essay, consider the following additional tips:

– Review the task directions thoroughly to understand the evaluation criteria for your essay.
– Seek assistance and advice from your professors to ensure you meet the requirements and expectations.
– Conduct extensive research and read nursing literature relevant to your topic.
– Follow the standard structure for nursing clinical reflective essays and use the appropriate paper format (e.g., MLA, APA, or Chicago).
– Strike a balance between your personal thoughts and opinions and a review of other scholarly work.

Sections of an Application Essay

Nursing school admissions are highly competitive, so it’s important to make your application essay exceptional. The following are essential sections that every nursing admission essay should include:

– Justification: Explain why you decided to become a nurse and discuss any influential people or events that shaped your decision.
– Demonstrate your worth: Showcase your qualifications and characteristics that make you a strong candidate for nursing school.
– Show passion and dedication: Communicate your genuine passion for nursing and your commitment to the profession.
– Personal experiences: Share personal anecdotes that illustrate your journey and development as a nurse.
– Future goals: Discuss your aspirations for the future and how obtaining a nursing degree will help you achieve those goals.

By including these sections in your nursing application essay, you provide admissions personnel with the necessary information to understand your motivation, qualifications, and dedication to the field.

In conclusion, writing a nursing clinical reflective essay requires careful consideration and preparation. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can effectively express your thoughts, experiences, and growth as a healthcare professional. Remember to engage in critical reflection, conduct research, create an outline, and utilize appropriate reflection frameworks. Through reflective practice, you can enhance your skills, knowledge, and future performance in clinical settings.