International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleFinding a place for story: looking beyond reflective practice
Type of ArticleOriginal Practice Development and Research
Author/sSharon Edwards
ReferenceVolume 4, Issue 2, Article 5
Date of PublicationNovember 2014
Keywordslearning, professional development, reflection, reflective practice, story

Background: In this article it is suggested that, as currently constituted, much of nurse education is dominated by reflective practice that is based around theory. The interpretation of reflective practice as theoretical has failed to acknowledge adequately the importance of practice in nurse education, something Schön (1983) proposed in his seminal work on reflection. Such criticisms of reflection are not new, having been the subject of debate within the profession since at least the 1980s. One important outcome of this debate has been the interest shown in how reflection might impact on nurse education, particularly in regard to this divorce between theory and practice that characterises much of the current education received by nurses.

Aim: For nurse education to look for ways of developing, accessing and understanding the world of practice, exploiting more extensively practice itself as a teaching resource, using story.

Findings: Nurse education needs to acknowledge difficulties with reflective practice, in that it is heavily weighted towards notions of the individual’s thoughts and actions. This approach grossly overstates the power of the individual to bring about change through reflection and individuals cannot always express their reflection of clinical situations. This has led to problems with teaching reflection as a means for developing professional practice. This article suggests that story can play an extremely productive role. This is not to suggest that story be a replacement for the reflective practice used in clinical practice and nurse education, nor is it implying that story should be viewed simply as an aid to reflection-on-action. What this article proposes is that story has value in itself.

Conclusions: First, story has value alone as a powerful illustration of real life clinical practice experiences. Second, it has importance for the expression of emotions and third, when an additional layer of analysis and critique is added to story, it can be influential in identifying complex professional issues.

Implications for practice:

  • Story is powerful and can help bring about change in individual practice, and contribute to initiation of policy changes and improvements in the treatment and care of patients
  • Story can give voice to nurses in clinical practice in their own right and also as a response to the power of the physician voice
  • Story acknowledges the personal contribution of experience to the nurse
  • Story embraces a more ongoing form of learning throughout a professional’s working life
  • Story helps students to reveal that learning is inherent in everyday practice and cannot always be accessed through theory, assessment or reflection

This article by Sharon Edwards is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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