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Reflections on… revalidation part 9

In the latest of our series on revalidation, Asha Fowells considers the art of reflection

Reflecting on reflection sounds like navel-gazing of the highest order, or some kind of nightmare situation involving a hall of mirrors at a funfair, but it is an apt description of my recent musings on revalidation.

It is no exaggeration to describe reflective practice as an essential element of any healthcare professional’s work, but it is easy to disregard the term as a mere fad, simply because it is used so frequently, particularly at the moment with revalidation looming large for so many pharmacy professionals. But sometimes along comes something that gives you pause for thought and really brings home what it is that we are trying to do for our customers, patients or whoever is on the receiving end of our services.

This is what happened to me. I chanced upon a statement issued by the Health and Care Professions Council in conjunction with eight other healthcare regulators – including the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland – called ‘Benefits of becoming a reflective practitioner’. Once I’d got past the terrible title, I found a rather nice little document that summarised the following:

  • Reflection is about individuals gaining insight into their practice by considering what they have experienced – both positive and negative – in order to continually improve their work
  • It is important to not just reflect inwardly but also outwardly, by discussing openly and honestly with others what has happened when something has gone wrong. This helps build resilience, improve wellbeing and deepen professional commitment
  • Reflection works best when professionals do it proactively and willingly, rather than regarding it as a tick box exercise, and adopt a systematic and structured approach
  • Multi-professional reflection often makes the process more impactful, meaningful and supportive, but care is needed to ensure all views are listened to without hierarchies getting in the way
  • It is important to focus on learning points about service users as this means efforts are concentrated on what really matters, but without going into the specifics of an incident as this may breach patient confidentiality.

Rather pleasingly, certainly to me at least, the document itself opened in a very considered manner, stating that regulators themselves have a duty to consider the actions and effects via reflection. As an extension of this, it was very welcome to see in black and white that regulators recognise the importance of not asking registrants to provide personal written reflections when investigating concerns about them. See previous revalidation column on the Bawa-Garba case.

Coming at a busy time of year for me workwise, this short paper has played a useful role in re-centring my attention on why revalidation matters so much, and how I will get so much more out of the exercise if I approach it with enthusiasm rather than regarding as a chore. Importantly, so will those who use my pharmacy services, whether readers of the articles that I write, or students participating in the drugs education workshops I run in schools for a charity. 

There are always reasons behind what we do, and remembering the why makes the how so much easier.

The HCPC joint statement can be accessed here.

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