Reflective Practice and the Learning of Health Care Students
Reflective practice, though ill-defined, has become an accepted educational concept within many health care disciplines particularly in nursing. Subsequently it has become benchmarked within Paramedic Sciences as a professional requirement for continuing education and clinical practice. However, despite the vast literature in nursing and the increasing growth of reflective practice in paramedic curricula it is unclear how it influences the students’ learning in preparation for graduate practice as future reflective practitioners. This research explored ‘to what extent does reflective practice in the paramedic curriculum influence the students’ academic and clinical learning leading to graduate practice’? A mixed methods approach with cohort samples of undergraduate health care students comprised four studies including surveys and non-participant observations of clinical simulation that were conducted in a university learning environment. The results showed overall that Paramedic students believed that they understood reflective practice and perceived it to be useful for their academic studies and clinical practice; although this is probably influenced more by formal teaching rather than the result of their own views. Students were able to describe reflective practice in ideal theoretical terms and were positive towards it regardless of their individual learning styles. However, in a clinical context, they applied it differently with significant emphasis on technical reflection. Evidence of the nature of reflective practice as it occurred during and after clinical simulation scenarios highlights a need for revised approaches to existing learning/teaching strategies with paramedic students. An extended understanding and refinement of reflective practice concepts including a new pedagogic framework to promote enhanced reflectivity are proposed. This theoretical framework is designed to accommodate reflective learning for both personal and collaborative learning related to curriculum outcomes. The use of clinical simulation for the development of reflective practice in the paramedic curriculum is supported with recommendations for further studies in academic and clinical settings.