Playing the game: undergraduate student nurses' perceptions of reflective journals
Lucas, Beverley Jane
Reflective journals are one of the most popular strategies for promoting reflective practice in nurse education. Whilst evaluations have been conducted, there remains a lack of substantive research about their value and appropriate usage. In this study the grounded theory approach was adopted in order to explore undergraduate student nurses' perceptions of reflective journals. A combination of data collection methods including participant observation, interviews and journal documents were used to locate the process and actions involved in documenting clinical practice. Using the analytic procedures of grounded theory, a core category named playing the game was identified. In order to manage conflicts experienced in clinical practice, students engage in two distinct stages ofjournal writing. These are using a personal diary as a means of selfexpression, expressing yourself and a further stage that involves producing the work for assessment, writing the right thing. The interplay between these two stages allows the students to develop valuable insight and engage in developing a broader perspective in order to make sense of their social world. The study suggests it is important to position the role and value ofjournal writing in nurse education with clarity of purpose and recognition of its limitations. The study supports the use of a staged approach to journal writing, which encourages students to keep two separate documents: a personal diary and a professional journal. The use of reflective journals provides a medium for dialogue of and with nursing practice that involves the description, interpretation and evaluation of role performance of self and where appropriate other practitioners in the care process. The implications of these findings both in terms of nurse education and continuing professional development are discussed.