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Common errors in reflective writing

1. Planning

You should be thinking about possible subjects and opportunities for reflective writing before and during your placements, not only after them.

2. Writing style

Writing too informally: just because it is based on your experience does not mean you can ignore academic style.


Writing style comparison
Original text Alternative text
In my opinion, if there are too many 'buts' in my choosing to practice in a rural area then I must not be ready for it, so it's better for me to stay put in the city. The reservations I currently feel about practicing in a rural setting suggest that I am not yet ready for such a move. So at this stage I plan to work in the city on graduation.

3. Too little or too much detail

You need to describe the experience adequately – the reader needs to be given enough detail to understand the context in which the experience occurred. However, it is not enough just to describe the experience in great detail: you also need to analyse and evaluate the events and the thinking processes involved. You should aim to consider deeper levels of meaning, exploring moral, ethical, social and/or professional issues.

Take time to organize and structure your writing. Try to focus on what was most significant about the experience, and relate it to aspects of your course and future career. Be careful that your writing does not seem to simply drift without direction or focus.

4. Being judgemental

Try to describe events accurately and honestly, but avoid moralising about people's behaviour.


Being judgemental – comparison
Original text Alternative text
1. I was shocked when the doctor showed me the patient's file without seeking consent. His disregard for the rules regarding patient consent caused me to lose respect for him and to question his ethical standards. I was surprised when the doctor showed me the patient's file without seeking consent. It made me realise that discrepancies can exist between what is taught on course and the way in which medicine is practised in reality. From my own perspective, as a future doctor I would seek to maintain high ethical standards, and to encourage that among staff under my supervision.
2. During the second week of my clinical study, I met a patient who needed an x-ray for her knee and hip joint. She was overweight and not very aware of my role as radiographer – she treated me more like a technician than a future doctor. Even worse, she was not cooperative, kept murmuring and shouted out about her pain throughout the procedure. Furthermore, this patient didn't listen to our instructions and wouldn't stay still after positioning. During the second week of my clinical study, I met a patient who needed an x-ray for her knee and hip joint. This was made more difficult because she was significantly over-weight and not very aware of my role as radiographer. She appeared distracted and had difficulty coping with her level of pain, sometimes shouting out. In terms of the x-ray procedure the patient was uncooperative – she did not follow our instructions and would not stay still after positioning. This made it very difficult to produce an adequate x-ray.

It could be useful to analyse this incident further – for example:

What surprised me most about this incident was the attitude of the patient to the health professionals. In my culture most people treat health professionals with great respect, and acknowledge their authority; they are even sometimes intimidated by them. I realised that in the Australian context compliance from the patient cannot be assumed. The doctor has to gain the trust and cooperation of the patient, and this may not always be easy. In this case I found that talking quietly to the patient and explaining each requirement in detail reassured her, and ultimately led to a greater level of cooperation. However, this made the consultation much longer than it otherwise would have been.
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