Background and aim: This study sought to increase the understanding of the concept of reflection within nursing. The research focused on the social construction of reflection through a post-registration, palliative care programme in the United Kingdom (UK).
Design and participants: An interpretive ethnographic approach was used to study reflection from the perspective of students and teachers, whilst paying attention to local organisational, contextual and cultural issues.
Methods: Data collection included: observations of teaching and learning interactions, interviews, extracts from programme documentation and student reflective learning contracts (RLCs).
Findings: Findings identified a learning culture committed to reflection as a valuable way of helping nurses make sense of their practice. Similar to Barnett's (1997) concept of 'critical being', students and teachers described reflection as a way of 'being' rather than simply 'thinking' or 'doing', since reflection intertwined propositional, affective and active elements. This process of reflective 'being' was connected with a humanistic approach to nursing, which emphasises the importance of actively using and expressing oneself in order to care for people.
Conclusion: This paper contributes empirical knowledge on the meaning of reflection in nursing regarding: teachers' and students' perspectives, reflection as a way to make sense of practice, and reflection as a way of 'being' and its association with humanistic nursing.
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