What is a Reflective Account

What is a Reflective Account?

Health and Social Care Blog, Learning and Development

Care Learning

4 mins READ

A reflective account is a key activity in health and social care that encourages professionals to think deeply about their work and experiences. This helps them improve their skills and increase personal knowledge.

This practice is essential for practitioners because it meets the ongoing professional development rules set by bodies like the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Purpose of a Reflective Account

Reflective accounts are essential for several reasons:

  • Professional Development: They help deepen your understanding of your duties.
  • Improving Practice: They allow you to recognise what you do well and where you can improve.
  • Compliance: They ensure you meet the standards required by regulatory bodies for revalidation.
  • Learning From Experiences: They enable you to learn from both successes and failures to better your future practices.

Types of Reflective Accounts

There are various types of reflective accounts, including:

  • Descriptive Reflection: This is a basic type that simply describes events without analysing their impact.
  • Critical Reflection: This type goes deeper, questioning underlying theories and challenging personal assumptions.
  • Transformative Reflection: Builds on critical reflection to create significant changes in understanding or methods.

Choosing the Right Model for Reflective Practice

There are various models to structure reflective accounts. Your choice might depend on personal preference or organisational guidelines.

In health and social care, some of the most commonly used models include:

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (1988):

  • Description
  • Feelings
  • Evaluation
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • Action Plan

Driscoll’s Model of Reflection (1994, based on Borton’s 1970 developmental model):

  • What? (Description)
  • So What? (Analysis)
  • Now What? (Planning for future actions)

Schön’s Reflective Practice Theory (1983):

  • Reflecting-on-action (after the event)
  • Reflecting-in-action (during the event)

Reflective Account vs Reflective Essay


  • Reflective Account: Documentation of specific events/practice for competency demonstration.
  • Reflective Essay: Critical analysis and deeper reflection on personal and professional development.


  • Reflective Account: Narrative, often chronological.
  • Reflective Essay: Structured with introduction, body, conclusion; includes theoretical frameworks.


  • Reflective Account: Description, actions, learning, feedback.
  • Reflective Essay: In-depth analysis, linking experiences with theory and literature.


  • Reflective Account: Portfolios, professional standards, CPD.
  • Reflective Essay: Academic coursework, personal development, advanced applications.
  • Understanding these differences helps health and social care professionals appropriately choose and apply the reflective method that best serves their learning and professional needs.

Writing a Reflective Account: A Step-by-Step Guide

To craft an effective reflective account, follow these steps:

  1. Choose an Experience
    Pick a specific event from your work that was particularly insightful, challenging, or rewarding.
  2. Apply a Reflective Model
    Use a model you are comfortable with or one recommended by your workplace.
  3. Describe the Event
    Detail what happened, who was involved, and where and when it took place. Stick to the facts and skip any unnecessary information.
  4. Analyse the Situation
    Talk about what went well and what didn’t. Connect your experiences to your professional knowledge or relevant research. Consider any ethical or social factors involved.
  5. Reflect on Your Feelings
    Examine emotions or thoughts you experienced during and after the event to understand its impact on you and others.
  6. Evaluate and Make Conclusions
    Combine all insights from this process of reflection. Assess what you’ve learned and how it can shape your future work approach.
  7. Develop an Action Plan
    Create clear steps based on this reflection aimed at improving both your professional skills and personal growth.

Examples of Reflective Account in Health and Social Care

Here are several examples of reflective accounts that highlight common scenarios and how social care workers and other health care professionals might approach them.

These examples are based on hypothetical situations and use different reflective models to illustrate the reflection process.

Example 1: Reflection on an Interaction with a Difficult Client

Model Used: Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

  1. Description: During a routine visit, I needed to assess the living conditions of client with dementia. The client was visibly agitated and refused to speak with me, expressing distrust.
  2. Feelings: I felt frustrated and worried. I was concerned about the client’s wellbeing but also felt inadequate because I could not engage them effectively.
  3. Evaluation: The situation was challenging because of the client’s hostile demeanour. However, my persistence in staying calm was positive.
  4. Analysis: On reflection, I realise the client’s agitation could be linked to dementia symptoms. I also considered that my approach might have been too direct for a client with such vulnerabilities.
  5. Conclusion: It’s clear that I need to adapt my communication strategies to better accommodate clients with cognitive impairments.
  6. Action Plan: I plan to attend a training session on dementia care. I will also schedule visits at times the client is most at ease, after consulting with their caregiver.

Example 2: Reflecting on a Team Conflict

Model Used: Driscoll’s Model of Reflection

  1. What? There was a misunderstanding among team members about the roles each should play in a complex child protection case, leading to a heated team meeting.
  2. So what? This conflict revealed deeper issues in team communication. It hindered our effectiveness, potentially impacting the quality of care provided.
  3. Now what? I will propose regular team-building exercises and clearer protocol guidelines. I also suggest facilitated sessions on conflict resolution to prevent such situations in the future.

Example 3: Reflection on a Home Visit Observation

Model Used: Schön’s Reflective Practice Theory

  • Reflecting-in-action: During the visit, I noticed the caregiver appeared overwhelmed, and the environment seemed cluttered and unsafe. I immediately addressed these observations by gently questioning the caregiver about these issues and noting them for follow-up.
  • Reflecting-on-action: Looking back, I realise I could have prepared better by bringing resources for stress management and occupational therapy contacts to offer the caregiver immediately.

Example 4: Reflection on Handling a Case of Suspected Abuse

Model Used: Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

  • Description: I received a report about a potential case of child abuse in a family I am familiar with through previous engagements.
  • Feelings: I felt a mix of dread and urgency, knowing the delicate balance needed to handle the situation sensitively but swiftly.
  • Evaluation: The immediate steps were effectively taken, including reaching out to the necessary authorities and ensuring the child’s safety.
  • Analysis: Reflecting on my actions, I appreciate the need for a calm yet decisive approach. However, I question if I could have engaged more supportively with the parents.
  • Conclusion: Engagement with all family members should always be empathetic and non-accusatory, regardless of the concerns.
  • Action Plan: For future similar incidents, plan a protocol that includes immediate protective measures for the child and a simultaneous supportive approach for the parents.

These reflective accounts showcase typical scenarios encountered in social care settings, emphasising continuous learning and improvement. Each account offers practical steps that could be implemented to enhance personal skills and overall care standards.

By engaging in such reflective practices regularly, social care professionals can develop a more thoughtful, responsive, and proactive approach in their work.

Implementing continuous reflective practice in health and social care settings fosters a deeper engagement with everyday professional encounters. It not only aids in meeting professional standards and compliance but also significantly contributes to personal growth and improved patient care.

Remember, effective reflection requires honesty, openness, and a commitment to ongoing learning.

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