"There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge – observation of nature, reflection and experimentation. Observation collects facts, reflection combines them, and experimentation verifies the result of that combination." - Denis Diderot
Reflection is the most important part of your Medical School Personal Statement. It doesn’t get simpler than that. But what is reflection and how do you implement it into your personal statement? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘self-reflection’ is defined as “the meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives”. In reality, the ability to think back to your own actions and analyse them is quite hard, but it is something you will come across throughout your career in medicine, so it’s a quality well-worth developing.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”: The first time most people would have come across any kind of self-reflection, albeit a deluded reflection. Reflection does not work if you are not honest, so it is important to view things as objectively as possible.
Why is Reflection so Important?
Further to this, try and reflect upon the hardest parts of the medical job that you have observed during work experience. Examples include the stressful nature of the job or the long hours and then think about how you dealt with it. A* material.
How do we Reflect on a Past Experience?
So how do you integrate your thoughts into your work seamlessly? How do you reflect on your experiences whether it is a shadowing experience, a work situation, a school project or whatever else? It is easy to get drawn into the mistake of simply listing what work experiences you have done and then stating that you are a really good leader.
The best way to do this is by following a very simple structure:
Step 1: Provide a brief description of your work experience. This does not have to be too detailed but should contain the key details, such as who you shadowed, for how long and in which department. Try to include a specific incident which demonstrates a certain quality or trait in a doctor such as a multi-disciplinary team meeting.
Step 2: Reflect on that experience and what you have learned. What was quality of a doctor shown in this case? This can even be a negative trait that you have reflected upon and shown how it was detrimental.
Step 3: Show how you have incorporated this skill into your own practice and how you aim to bring this to medical school. Maybe you could include an example or an incident that required you to portray this particular trait.
There are many methods on how to successfully reflect that you help you perform the exercise described above. Two of the most famous models were proposed by authors Kolb and Gibbs. The Gibbs cycle reproduced below is slightly more developed and therefore tends to be referenced more. This gives a pretty comprehensive overview of how to reflect on an experience and it is fairly similar to what is expected in a Medical School Personal Statement.
Key Tips For Reflection
Keep a diary during your work placements
Have a look at the GMC’s Good Practice Guidelines
Avoid vague statements
The importance of this skill cannot be stressed enough! Reflection could simply be described as the ability to analyse your own and others’ actions, but in your Medical School Personal Statement it is a golden opportunity to show off your ability to improve yourself, develop your analytical skills and prove that you have the capability and desire to become a successful doctor. You will come across reflection at nearly every stage of your professional development, so you might as well get to grips with it now!
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences and failing to achieve anything useful” -Margaret J. Wheatley
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