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7 ways to improve your reflection for revalidation

As part of the new revalidation process, nurses and midwives must provide at least five written pieces of reflection. These can be based on your continuing professional development (CPD), a practice-related event, or feedback from colleagues or patients.

When choosing what to write about, you should pick something that happened in the three years prior to your revalidation date. Write about what you learnt from the experience and how your practise changed as a result, making sure you relate this back to the NMC code. Not sure where to start? Here are seven tips to improve your reflection for revalidation.

1. Make reflection a habit

It’s hard to remember the details of something that happened two or more years ago. Get into the habit of reflecting regularly, and you’ll have a useful reminder at revalidation time.

Try keeping a page-a-day diary. It can help to give each page headings, eg ‘what happened,’ ‘how I felt about it,’ and ‘what I would do differently next time’. Or rate the day’s events (1-10) in terms of usefulness, noting what you learnt and any changes you propose as a result.

Alternatively, draw a line down the page with ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of the day on either side. As well as recording what you could have done better, list what you’re good at and what went well. Building on the positives is just as important as identifying and improving on any areas of weakness.

2. Think about why you avoid reflection

If you struggle to keep notes, think about why you find it so hard. Are you avoiding thinking about some things or articulating certain feelings? Time is an issue for everyone, but remember that you only need to spend 10 minutes a day on reflection. The investment you make now will pay off at revalidation – and make you a better nurse.

Some people find it easier to vocalise their thoughts. If that’s the case, use a voice record app on your smartphone. If you find it easier to express things in conversation, ask the person’s permission and record the conversation. It might be your partner, friend, or a nurse you meet once a week for a coffee and a catch up. You can then transcribe it later.

3. Look out for learning opportunities

Revalidation can come around surprisingly quickly. Don’t wait until the last minute to arrange CPD or attend a conference. Instead, try to spread learning opportunities across the three years before your revalidation date.

There are lots of CPD events taking place across the UK throughout the year, and many are free. The Royal College of Nursing offers its members free and discounted courses, and if lack of money and time is a problem, there are also opportunities to learn online.

Your annual appraisal is a good time to review what kind of training and support has helped you previously, and what you might benefit from in future. Put a note in your calendar or set a reminder on your phone to research what’s out there every few months.

4. Get used to asking for feedback

As part of revalidation, you must also provide five pieces of practice-related feedback.

Feedback can be formal or informal, and may come directly from patients, service users, carers, students or colleagues, or through reviewing complaints, team performance reports and serious event reviews. You can also use feedback gained from clinical supervision and from appraisals and one-to-ones.

This feedback can also be used to help you write your reflection pieces – so don’t wait until your annual appraisal. Get into the habit of regularly asking others to give feedback and you should have a good amount of material when it comes to revalidation time.

5. Read the new NMC Code

Each reflection piece you write needs to demonstrate that you recognise the impact of the NMC Code, so it pays to make sure you’re familiar with the updated version.

The revised NMC Code came into effect on 31 March 2015, replacing the 2008 Code.

It defines what it means to be a regulated professional and covers the core standards of conduct, performance and ethics, as well as acting as a guide for nurses and midwives reflecting on their daily practice, professional approach, and philosophy.

The updated version includes new guidance on the use of social media, prescribing and medicine management, the fundamentals of care, the ‘duty of candour’, taking emergency action, and maintaining clear professional boundaries and raising concerns.

6. Take a formal approach

Still can’t get into the habit of making notes? Print off or save this template provided by the NMC and complete it every few months.

There are likely to be some areas of development that need additional work, and with experience, support and training, you may be add to go back and make further updates.

Accounts don’t need to be lengthy or academic-style pieces of writing. The NMC has provided examples of completed templates and reflective accounts to give you an idea.

7. Organise your portfolio

Finally, start collecting and organising your evidence sooner rather than later. You can choose to keep a paper-based portfolio or save it electronically on computer – just make sure it’s kept in a safe place, or keep a backup copy if it’s saved to your PC, laptop or tablet. (If in doubt, email it to yourself).

Make a note on the calendar or set a reminder on your phone to organise your portfolio at least once a month. The sooner you get organised, the easier the whole process will be.

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