It’s good to talk! Reflective Discussion Forums to support and develop Reflective Practice among Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Practitioners in Ireland.

Chris O'Connor, Joe O'Hara




Since the mid 1980’s, reflective practice has become formally acknowledged and adopted as a key strategy for learning and has become one of the cornerstones of medical education for doctors, nurses, and many of the allied healthcare professions. In the education of pre-hospital emergency care practitioners in Ireland, it is only in the last decade that the notion of reflective practice has been tentatively approached.  Indeed until recently it has largely been ignored by practitioners and educators alike, who have been slow to engage with this new way of learning. This paper explores the attitudes of practitioners to the use of a reflective discussion forum to encourage and support reflection and reflective practice among pre-hospital emergency care practitioners in Ireland.  It also examines the experiences of practitioners who participated in a collaborative reflective discussion forum.


The research was informed by reviewing literature from a number of areas including:  Adult Learning, Reflective Practice, Educational Research directly relating to Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and EMS & Nursing Journals and publications.


This paper is part of a larger project which consisted of three cycles of action research.  Data was collected via an online survey questionnaire, and by conducting a series of semi-structured interviews with participants in the reflective discussion forum.  These included all three clinical levels of pre-hospital emergency care practitioners and the three hierarchical levels within the organisation.


The collaborative reflective discussion forum was found to be beneficial.  Among the benefits cited were, the opportunity to draw on the experience of more experienced colleagues, the development of critical thinking skills, and the potential for use as part of a mentoring process.  It was also felt that the collaborative nature of the forum had the potential to improve workplace relationships through the empowerment of the staff. Concerns were raised regarding the potential for abuse and misuse, particularly in relation to the areas of patient confidentiality and a lack of trust within organisations.


The establishment of a regular Reflective Discussion Forum within organisations as a key learning strategy. Any collaborative forum must be chaired by a trusted, experienced and highly skilled facilitator. A learning contract for all participants and faculty, including a confidentiality agreement, must be in place prior to the establishment of any collaborative forum.


pre-hospital Care; Education; Reflective practice.

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Gibbs, G. 1988. Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. Oxford: Oxford Further Education Unit.

Griffin, M. 2003. Using critical incidents to promote and assess reflective thinking in preservice teachers. Reflective Practice. Vol. 4. p. 207-220.

Kirkpatrick, D. L. 1998. Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

McNiff, J. and Whitehead, J. 2006. All you need to know about Action Research. London: Sage Publications.

Schön, D. A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner. How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.



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