Ethical dimensions to reflection

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Reflection is a key aspect of practice for healthcare scientists so we also need to be aware of the ethical dimensions of reflection and reflective practice. This is not just about maintaining confidentiality in your reflective writing there is more to it than that. 

Whilst working in a clinical environment, ethical and moral issues just arise that cannot be hidden. Reflective writing is one way of expressing how we feel about a situation and a starting point for beginning to deal or cope with it. Similarly talking to colleagues about what happened is a release of feelings for example anger or shame. These stories of practice help us to develop as reflective practitioners as we learn from what we, or others do or do not do. “I wouldn’t work that way” is a positive decision but may have further implications.


Task 1 – Reflection on an incident

Think back to an incident that made you stop and think about what you or others were doing. What was the impact of this on you at the time? How did this change or effect your professional practice?

Task 2 – Who is facilitating or supporting reflection?

This may seem a different task for clinical photographers than their managers but we all at some point require support. Who can you go to? What support or facilitation is available in your work place? Who can you turn to? From a facilitators perspective the questions are more about: How are we helping or supporting the reflection of placement students, trainees or staff?

Reflection is not without moral significance, for example

  • Reflection is emotionally demanding for the person who is doing it. Can we insist they do it?
  • On reflecting the reflector may feel pressured to act to change the situation, thus disturbing the status quo.
  • If you then share those reflections with others verbally then you expose a part of yourself, and divulge information about unsuspecting third parties.
  • If you write down these reflections as part of an assessed course they are read by a least one other person, and are given into that third party’s custody for safe keeping. Also in doing this there is an obligation to reveal part of yourself which may usually be private in order to gain academic credit, and to use the experiences of your (non-consenting) patients as the medium for your achievement.
Hargreaves, J. (1997) Using patients: exploring the ethical dimension of reflective practice in nurse education. J Adv Nursing 25: 223-228, p 223.
On completion of this learning activity you will have:
  • Examined the ethical dimensions of reflection and the implications for students, trainees and professional practitioners.

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