Are you a nurse educator? Are you looking for a teaching strategy to better help students learn in the classroom and in the clinical area? Do you need a tool that helps bridge theory and practice? Reflective journaling can accomplish this.
Reflective journaling has been used as a teaching strategy for nursing education because it enhances critical thinking which allows students to analyze their clinical situations and examine their feelings.
Reflective journaling helps students focus on their thoughts and feelings which may result in a changed outlook. Journaling may especially benefit students who have difficulty verbalizing their feelings. It is often easier to write down their feelings. Reflection after a clinical day gives students a greater insight into their feelings, and in essence gives them more confidence so they can continue on with their clinical experience.
Boyd and Fales state that "reflective learning is the process of internally examining and exploring an area of concern triggered by an experience which creates and clarifies learning in terms of self which results in change of perspective."1
Reflective journaling provides students with feedback from nursing faculty after a scenario has occurred and lets the students not only reflect on thoughts and feelings, but allows them to assess and evaluate outcomes and how they would do or approach something differently. As students learn about nursing principles and integrate them with their personal belief systems, reflective journaling has established a way to bridge theory and practice.2
Educators use this particular teaching strategy to promote critical thinking and safe practice. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has recommended clinical experience should provide the graduate with knowledge and skills that engage in self-reflection in professional practice.3
In her journal, one of my students, Rhonda, questions whether she can become a nurse. Before going to clinical, she became physically ill. She was nauseated and vomited due to her anxiety about starting her first clinical rotation.
She reflected on it and was willing to overcome being uncomfortable because nursing was a goal. She is older than most of the students and this is a career change for her. Recordings in her journal reflected that although she was nervous in the beginning of clinical, she became more comfortable with patient care. She demonstrated good communication skills and her performance in clinical showed improvement.
Erica had difficulty communicating with patients. She was extremely shy and felt she was invading someone's privacy when asking them questions. Writing in her journal helped her better communicate with her patients. She wrote down what she would say to them and how she felt after saying it. After discussing effective communication skills, and after several journal entries, her communication skills improved.
Sara was aggressive and had little patience. She often lashed out at her peers. She acted in an aggressive manner before assessing the situation. I talked to her about being more assertive with her patients. I told her to listen to what they had to say and then act accordingly. After trying hard, she finally became less aggressive and more assertive. Her patients told their stories and she slowly developed patience and looked forward to communicating with them each week.
In her journal, Sara wrote about how she began to feel better about herself by being more assertive with her patients. She listened to her peers before reacting. I could also see improvement in her behavior with her peers.