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Reflection is critical to maintaining professional practice and enhancing patient care. Although sometimes uncomfortable, taking the time to reflect on your performance is essential to a healthcare professional's ongoing development. It is a valuable learning opportunity, not only to consider what could be done differently in future but to identify and learn from any mistakes or incidents that could impact the safe treatment of a patient.

Reflection in the workplace can be in a formal capacity through performance reviews and CPD. Still, it is equally valuable to take the opportunity to catch up informally with colleagues and mentors to discuss patient cases. 

Watch our video in which Phaedra, a Senior Clinical Psychologist, describes the value of reflection on your professional development as a healthcare professional.  

Case studies

Below, healthcare professionals have shared their experiences of demonstrating professionalism and the value of reflection on professional practice.  

My view of professionalism has changed over time due to my experiences throughout training and as a healthcare professional. Although these views incorporate aspects within the codes of conduct and other guidelines, I feel that parts that have stood out are less frequently documented within professional standards. 

When I started a senior role, I was somewhat anxious about the new responsibilities and unfamiliar setting. I began to feel overwhelmed and was starting to question my ability. Furthermore, I experienced a bereavement the same week and attempted to manage many different emotions while trying to understand the new environment and role. 

I broached my concerns tentatively with my clinical supervisor, who spent time encouraging me to talk about how I felt and validated how normal it was while giving me examples of when he had felt the same. 

His approach made me think differently about professionalism. It helped me to see that professionalism isn't always about being someone who knows everything, is always confident in their ability and leaves their human self at the door of work. Instead, it is acknowledging your limitations, gaps in knowledge, and human emotions to be reflective and continue providing the most effective care to others. 

As a result, I have changed my approach to supervising and line managing others. I am mindful of maintaining boundaries and appropriately sharing some of my limitations and anxieties to encourage them to do the same. I never thought I would do this, but after my own positive experience, I thought I would try this approach, and I have been pleased by how it has helped support others. 

It has enabled those I supervise/manage to share their anxieties and be honest about their own experiences. This has then allowed us to think about what further knowledge or experience would be beneficial or explore how they feel about particular things and how they may approach their work going forward.

I recently became a senior occupational therapist responsible for line managing several colleagues. During a supervision session, a colleague requested supervision from a more senior occupational therapist from another team as they felt I was not sufficiently experienced. 

I was taken aback by this request, which affected my confidence. However, I remained professional with my colleague during the meeting and was proud of how I managed the situation. 

This experience made me reflect upon my professionalism and consider how I could adapt my approach to best suit the learning styles of the colleagues under my supervision. As such, I updated supervision sheets and learning contracts and made sure I revisited all my team's learning needs. 

I took a negative situation in the workplace as a development opportunity and considered how I could help other colleagues to avoid a similar situation. I remained professional throughout the experience, maintaining my composure and approachable nature. However, I also recognised the need to adapt and be open to change to provide the best support to my colleague. 

Keeping cool and calm in a situation allows you time to take that step back, reflect, and make positive and practical changes to your service, professional/personal development, and clinical reasoning. 

I recently changed jobs to work in a private radiotherapy department. As a new team member in a small department, the first month can be challenging while you integrate and familiarise yourself with new processes. 

I felt supported and settled into the position quickly after working closely with a team leader who is, in my opinion, a role model because of her professional values and attitudes. 

She facilitated an environment where the wider team supported me well, and I could gain my clinical competencies promptly. Throughout the first month, she monitored my work closely without micromanaging. Her subtle encouragement developed my confidence to work autonomously and be proactive. 

When giving feedback, she was comfortable discussing weaknesses and areas to improve upon but also recognised and praised areas of strength. She would often sacrifice her time in the clinical setting to put my needs before hers. If I ever felt that a situation was beyond my scope of practice, she would be ready to step in and assist. Afterwards, she would reflect and discuss what went well or could be done differently. As a team leader, she demonstrated dependability and kindness. 

She was committed to ensuring that: I fitted in quickly, built rapport with the team; and refined my clinical skills to suit the department's requirements. In a busy clinical environment with many pressures, I can see just how important it is to recognise each individual within a team and their needs to ensure each practitioner has the opportunity to grow as a professional. 

Key learnings

Some of the key reflective learnings identified from the personal experiences of healthcare professionals include:

  • Allow time and space for reflection in the workplace and use it to improve how you support patients and interact with colleagues.
  • Use difficult situations as a learning opportunity to make positive changes to your work.
  • Review incident reports and consider what worked and could have been done better to improve patient care.
  • Learn from the experiences of others. Catch up informally with colleagues/mentors to discuss cases.
  • Reflect on ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) learning and consider ways to implement them into daily practice.


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Good communication underpins all aspects of professionalism and is critical to building professional relationships with colleagues, patients and other healthcare professionals.

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To deliver a high standard of patient care all healthcare professionals must demonstrate a high level of competence in their specific roles.

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Managers and leaders must lead by example, demonstrating a professional approach through their own values, attitude and behaviours. 

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Patient-centred care

Patient-centred care puts the patient at the very centre of their treatment.

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