Reflecting on nurses

This post courtesy of Anne Taylor-Vaisey: Here's some light reading from the November 2004 issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing:

Mantzoukas S, Jasper MA. Reflective practice and daily ward reality: a covert power game. J Clin Nurs. 2004 Nov;13(8):925-33.

Background. The concept of reflection is propounded in the literature as an epistemology for practice that enables practitioners to solve their daily problematic situations through conscious thought processes which eventually leads to practice-based knowledge. Hence, reflection became a central tenet of both theory development and educational provision in nursing. Furthermore, this centrality of reflection was reinforced by statutory nursing bodies and service providers by adopting it as the means for carrying out adequate professional practice. Although this may be the case, issues of implementation of reflection within the daily reality of practitioners are frequently overlooked within the literature. Moreover, little consideration appears to be given on the impact that the organizational culture and the politics of power may exert on the implementation of reflective practices within daily ward reality.

Aims. This paper explores how reflection is viewed by nurses within their daily reality in the medical wards, examines the relationships between the organizational culture of these wards and the practitioners and investigates whether reflective methods of practice were being implemented when the study was conducted.

Methods. An interpretative ethnographical methodology was implemented and the data collecting methods used were observation, interviews and qualitative content analysis with a group of 16 practising nurses from four medical wards of one NHS Trust in


. Two interviews were conducted with each nurse within 3-week intervals. The content of these intervie! ws evolved from the analysis of episodes of practice observed when the nurses were giving nursing care. These data were supplemented by narratives from the nurses' in the form of written reflective accounts that were analysed via qualitative content analysis techniques.

Findings. Four themes were generated: (i) relationships between nurses and doctors; (ii) relationships between nurses and managers; (iii) nursing practice; and (iv) nurses' input in the outcome of a clinical situation.

Conclusions. The concept of reflection appears to be invalidated by the organizational hierarchy of the wards on the basis of a power struggle game. The ward structure portrays reflection as an abnormal method of practice and knowledge development. This belittlement of reflection does not mirror the practitioners' reality. Instead, it is an intelligent and intentional act on behalf of the dominant professional groups in the wards to create an illusionary ! picture of ward reality to allow them to survey and define nursing practice and thus maintain and remain in power. This is explicated by using Foucault's analysis and critical social theory framework. Hence, reflective processes are constrained by this covert power game; reflection, where used, is confined to nurses' personal time and space.

Relevance to clinical practice. The realization of this covert power game by individual clinical nurses can become the incipient point for formally using reflective methods in the practice setting.

PubMed link

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