Reflective Nursing Essay Writing Guide With Examples

How to Write a Nursing Reflective Essay

By the end of this nursing reflective essay guide, you’ll be an expert reflective nursing essay writer. Lol.

In the journey of becoming an accomplished nurse, there is one essential skill that a student nurse should master: writing reflective essays. Reflective essays are crucial in nursing as they provide a platform for students to critically and thoughtfully reflect on their clinical practice or any specific nursing event. They allow nurses to explore, understand, and learn from their experiences, which subsequently aids in improving their nursing practice.

Reflective essays in nursing also serve as a means of developing clinical expertise and professional growth. By reflecting on various situations, nurses can identify their strengths and areas that need improvement, enhancing their nursing skills and knowledge. Reflective writing is not just about recounting what happened; it is an analytical practice that involves making sense of the events, interactions, and observations in the clinical setting.

What Is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of writing that explores the writer’s thoughts, feelings, and insights about a specific experience or event. This type of essay is reflective, allowing the writer to delve deep into their reflections and express them in a structured format.

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In nursing school, a reflective essay often focuses on experiences within a clinical environment, patient care, or experiences with peers and medical professionals. These essays promote critical thinking, enhance understanding of nursing concepts, and improve patient care.

What Is a Reflection in a Nursing Essay?

Reflection in a nursing essay is when a nurse takes a step back to ponder on their experiences and interactions during their practice. It involves analyzing situations, making judgments, and forming conclusions to improve future practices. Reflection can occur immediately after the event or after some time, but the crucial aspect is that it enables continuous learning and improvement.

Reflection in a nursing essay should ideally involve a description of the event, an examination of the feelings and emotions it evoked, an evaluation of the positive and negative aspects, an analysis to make sense of the experience, a conclusion drawing, and the development of an action plan for future similar situations.

Reflective writing in nursing is a practical tool to foster critical thinking, improve communication skills, and promote professional development. Not only does it contribute to academic growth, but it also aids in becoming a thoughtful and responsive practitioner.

Reflective Tools and Models

Reflective models offer a structured approach to the reflection process and can serve as beneficial tools for nursing students in their reflective writing. Using these models helps ensure that all aspects of an experience are considered and reflected upon. Here are some of the key models used:

Gibbs’ Reflective Model

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a popular model used in the nursing profession. It comprises six stages: Description, Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion, and Action Plan. This model encourages individuals to think systematically about the phases of an experience or activity.

Dewey’s Reflective Thinking Model

John Dewey’s Reflective Thinking Model is based on the idea that learning is active and experiential. This model emphasizes that reflection should involve careful and persistent examination of beliefs or practices in light of supporting evidence.

Kolb Reflective Model

Kolb’s Reflective Model, or the Experiential Learning Cycle, transforms experience into knowledge. This model involves four stages: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation.

Schön Reflective Model

Schön’s Reflective Model divides reflection into Reflection-on-action (thinking about something that has happened in the past) and Reflection-in-action (thinking about something while you are doing it). This model benefits practice-based professional learning settings where people learn from their experiences.

Bouds Reflective Model

Boud’s Reflective Model focuses on three key steps: Returning to the experience, attending to feelings, and re-evaluating the experience. This model acknowledges the role of feelings and emotions in reflection.

Driscoll Reflective Model

Driscoll’s Reflective Model is a straightforward and easy-to-use framework based on three simple questions: What? (describing the event), So What? (discussing the relevance or importance of the event), and Now What? (identifying changes or learning for future practice).

5R Framework

The 5Rs of Reflection (Report, Respond, Relate, Reason, and Reconstruct) provide a process for ensuring that reflection leads to learning, offering a comprehensive guide to the different stages of reflection.

CARL Framework

The CARL (Consider, Act, Reflect, Learn) framework is a simple yet effective tool for reflection. It encourages individuals to consider a situation, take action, reflect on the outcomes of that action, and learn from the process.

Steps for Writing a Good Reflective Essay for Nursing Students

Writing a reflective essay involves a series of steps that help to structure the reflection process. Here are the typical steps that a nursing student can follow when writing a reflective essay:

Step 1: Description

In this initial step, you aim to provide a detailed and objective description of the event or experience. Discuss what happened, where it happened, who was involved, and why it happened. You aim to provide enough detail so that anyone reading your reflection would understand the circumstances of the event. Be careful to maintain a neutral tone in this section – you’re merely setting the stage for your readers, not expressing your opinions or insights yet.

Step 2: Feelings

In this step, you reflect on how you felt during the incident. Being honest and straightforward about your emotions is essential because they play a significant role in reflection. Describe your feelings before, during, and after the event. Also, consider how your emotions may have influenced your actions. Try to be as specific as possible – instead of saying you felt “bad,” for example, you could say you felt “anxious,” “frustrated,” or “overwhelmed.”

Step 3: Evaluation

Next, you make a judgment about the experience. Was it a positive or negative experience? What was right or wrong about the situation? This step involves taking a critical look at the event and your actions. Consider the event’s consequences and whether it lived up to your expectations. Discuss what worked well and what didn’t, and why.

Step 4: Analysis

In this stage, you delve deeper into your reflection by analyzing the incident. You aim to make sense of the situation. What did you learn from the experience? How has it affected your understanding of your practice? This is where you can incorporate theory and relate it to your experience. You might discuss concepts or ideas from your field of study and how they apply to your experience. The analysis should lead to a deeper understanding of the event.

Step 5: Conclusion

The conclusion involves synthesizing all the stages of reflection. It’s where you determine what else you could have done in the situation and consider whether any changes or improvements could be made for future practice. You might also discuss the broader implications of your reflection – for example, how it has changed your perspective or how it will impact your future actions.

Step 6: Action Plan

Finally, the action plan is crucial in identifying what you will do if a similar situation arises. This step transforms the reflection into practical application, allowing you to learn from your experiences and improve your future practice. You might discuss specific strategies or steps you plan to take or how you will apply the lessons you’ve learned.

Writing a Reflective Essay Outline

How do you craft a reflective essay? Begin with an outline.

Every paper is a contemplation on an essay topic, and an outline serves as a blueprint where you can organize these thoughts. The first step towards a compelling and detailed essay is generating this outline.

What would constitute an effective outline for a reflective essay? It’s about organizing your thoughts coherently. Determine what you want to include in the essay’s introduction, body, and conclusion.

Here’s a template for a reflective essay outline:


Hook: Start with a compelling statement, question, or anecdote to grab the reader's attention and set the tone of your essay. This can be something related to your personal experience or the main idea of your reflection.

Mention the main points: Briefly introduce your essay's central themes or ideas. This helps to provide context for your readers and guide their expectations.

Thesis statement: This is a clear and concise statement that expresses your essay's main idea or argument. It should encapsulate the essence of your reflection and provide a roadmap for your readers.

Section 1

Topic sentence: This is a concise statement that introduces the first idea or theme that you'll be discussing in this section.

Proof of topic or idea: Support your topic with evidence. In a reflective essay, this may come from personal experience, observation, or supporting literature.

Idea analysis: Discuss your interpretation of the evidence or experience. This is where you reflect on how this idea or experience impacted you and why it's significant.

Section 2

Topic sentence: Introduce the second idea or theme you'll discuss in this section.

Proof of topic or idea: Provide evidence or examples to support this idea or theme. Remember to use personal experiences or observations to support your reflection.

Idea analysis: Reflect on this idea or theme, discussing how it impacted you and why it's important.

Section 3

Topic sentence: Introduce the third idea or theme you'll discuss in this section.

Proof of topic or idea: Provide evidence or examples to support this idea or theme. Again, use personal experiences or observations to make your point.

Idea analysis: Reflect on this idea or theme, discussing how it impacted you and its significance.


Repeat the thesis statement: Restate your thesis statement in a new way, reinforcing the main idea of your essay.

Review the main ideas: Briefly summarize your essay's main ideas or themes. This helps to reinforce your arguments and provides a sense of closure for your readers.

Concluding sentence: End with a strong concluding sentence that ties your reflection together and leaves your readers with something to consider. This could be a summary of what you've learned, a reflection on the process, or a statement about how this experience will influence your future actions.

This outline is structured to organize your thoughts and ideas in a reflective essay, ensuring a coherent and impactful piece. Remember, a reflective essay is personal and subjective, so it’s essential to express your thoughts and feelings throughout the essay authentically.

Final Thoughts (How to Write a Reflective Nursing Essay)

Writing a reflective essay in nursing is a journey into personal experiences, emotions, and insights within the context of your nursing practice. It demands sincerity, self-examination, and an eagerness to learn and evolve. Even though the journey can present challenges, it is an invaluable instrument for personal and professional growth.

FAQs on How to Write a Reflective Nursing Essay

What Is the Purpose of Writing a Reflective Essay?

The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to provide a platform for the author to recount a particular life experience and explore how they have changed or learned from those experiences. Reflective essays can be academic or feature more broadly as a part of a general piece of writing for a magazine, for instance.

What Makes a Good Reflective Essay?

A good reflective essay effectively communicates the author’s thoughts and feelings about a particular experience or set of experiences. It involves clear and vivid descriptions, honest introspection, and the conclusion’s evident transformation or realization. The reader should be able to understand the author’s journey and the impact of the experience on their life or perspective.

What Are the 3 Basic Parts of a Reflection Paper?

The three essential parts of a reflection paper are the introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction typically includes a brief overview of the experience or topic and a thesis statement. The body paragraphs delve into the details of the experience and the author’s reflections. The conclusion summarizes the key points and the overall impact of the experience on the author.

What Is the Best Reflective Model to Use in Nursing?

The best reflective model to use in nursing depends on the specific situation and the individual’s personal preference. Some popular models include Gibbs’ Reflective Model, Dewey’s Reflective Thinking Model, Kolb’s Reflective Model, Schön Reflective Model, Bouds’s Reflective Model, Driscoll’s Reflective Model, 5R Framework, and the CARL framework. Each model has its strengths and is designed to facilitate reflection slightly differently.

What is the Main Objective of a Reflective Essay?

The main objective of a reflective essay is to allow the author to explore their personal experiences on a deeper level and communicate the insights and personal growth that have resulted from those experiences. It’s a way of understanding and interpreting one’s life experiences to gain new understanding or appreciation.

What Can Be Good Topics for a Reflective Essay?

Good topics for a reflective essay can come from various experiences. In the context of nursing, this might include a particularly impactful patient interaction, dealing with death or illness, a challenging ethical dilemma, a significant learning moment during training or practice, or any other experience that has significantly impacted one’s nursing practice or perspective.

How is a Reflective Essay Different From a Narrative Essay?

While both types of essays involve personal experiences, a narrative essay focuses on telling the story of the experience. In contrast, a reflective essay focuses on analyzing and reflecting on that experience. A reflective essay emphasizes how the experience affected the writer and what they learned from it rather than the chronological details of the event or story.

What is the Importance of Personal Experience in a Reflective Essay?

Personal experience is crucial in a reflective essay as it forms the basis for the reflection. It’s the event or series of events that the writer is reflecting on and drawing insights from. The personal nature of these experiences allows for deep introspection and personal growth.

How Should I Structure my Reflective Essay?

Your reflective essay should typically be structured with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should introduce the experience you’ll reflect on and your thesis or main point. The body paragraphs should explore the experience in-depth and your reflections on it, and the essay conclusion should wrap up your points and reflect on the overall impact of the experience.

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