Reflection. It is the dreaded word in healthcare. Why? Because it is uncomfortable and tedious. Imagine selecting the most boring film you know and watching every excruciating minute of it. Now imagine watching it with the most critical person you know. Does that sound fun? Reflection isn’t meant to be fun. But it is vital for creating a better health care service.
I hate reflecting. I’m very bad at recognising what I’m doing well and I dwell on unimportant things too much. I think I’m a bit of a perfectionist (not a useful quality as a doctor) and I tend to be too optimistic. As a result I’m often stressed, rarely pleased and mostly let down by myself and sometimes others too. I’m the prime example of someone who needs regular time to reflect. So what is reflection? Well basically a form of evaluating yourself and your performance. You pick an event. You analyse what went well, what went badly, how did it make you feel and what were the learning points. You then try and implement this into your next activity. The idea is that by formally sitting down and thinking, you are able to logically and rationally explore the event at hand.
It is definitely one of the most uncomfortable things to do. It is like putting up a mirror in front of yourself and going: I have dark circle because I don’t sleep enough. I have lost too much weight because I never have time to eat breakfast. I have frown lines because I spend too much time frowning than not. All of these are truths which we would all rather hide from. But hiding doesn’t actually tackle the fact that you’re stressed, not sleeping or eating well. Once it is out in the open, though, the taboo has gone. And we can actually start addressing how to fix it.
I’ve only really reflected on my professional practice. My mum once said that every time you think you don’t know anything, write down one thing big or small you have learn in one day and look back on it in a month’s time. You’ll have 30 new things that you’ve learnt.
I wonder though, if reflection is something we should all do in our personal lives too. After all, we aren’t just professionals. We are professionals with a very real and sometimes overbearing personal life.
Mirror, mirror on the wall…