GP training: Why reflection is an important part of our training

Dr Patrice Baptiste explains why she believes reflection is a key to helping GPs grow, develop and ultimately become better doctors.

From speaking to my colleagues the general consensus is that reflecting in general on the eportfolio is a laborious and somewhat unnecessary task. Some of the main reasons behind this are: not knowing what to and how reflect on cases and the constraints of the eportfolio template itself.

While I agree that there are some issues with the layout and structure of the eportfolio I think there is much to gain from reflecting and there are ways to personalise the templates given to us.

Here is why I think reflecting is so crucial to all doctors at different stages of their careers.

1. A written record of events

While one can argue that interesting scenarios and cases are remembered, I don’t think there is anything better than logging important cases, achievements and detailing what is learnt from them. Over time, small details can be forgotten and important points lost so having a written record soon after (ideally) the event has occurred ensures minimal information will be lost.

2. A chance to stop and think

Today everyone is always on the go, but reflecting allows me to pause, therefore taking time to think about what happened and what, if anything, can be done differently in the future. I think about how I felt, how others felt and evaluate different perspectives. I am able to consider my current and future practice ensuring I become a better doctor.

3. There is always something to learn

Given that the nature of general practice is so variable, which is the reason why many of us chose this speciality, reflecting illustrates that there is always something new to encounter and learn. Perhaps it is a rare condition you’ve never seen and only read about, or understanding how you react to a particular scenario. Whatever it is, there will always be something to reflect on and therefore learn from.

4. Targets for learning

At the end of my clinical encounters I think about other ways I can improve, set targets for myself and ensure I complete them within a set timeframe. This ensures my continued professional development.

5. Showcasing achievements

Personally I don’t like blowing my own trumpet, but the portfolio is somewhere you can showcase all the amazing work you have done. Certificates from conferences and seminars or presentations and audits you have worked diligently on can all be added.

While I am in favour of reflecting and do see some benefit to the templates within the eportfoilio I do think that the preset proformas are somewhat rigid and could be improved. Perhaps there could be an area on the portfolio with a guide to help those who are not sure what to reflect on or indeed how to reflect on an occurrence. An alternative would be to design drop down options for each subheading or leave an area where you can freely type what you like.

Reflection in general practice is here to stay and is a valuable tool for any GP. Learning how to make the most of it should be a key objective for trainees so that we can fully develop and grow as GPs.

  • Dr Baptiste is a ST2 GP trainee in Romford, Essex

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