Reflective writing may or may not be part of your nursing school curriculum.   Keep in mind, if you have one of those situations that makes for a memorable day, even if you are not assigned to write about it, you should.  Here’s why.  A nurse recruiter’s favorite question is, “Tell me about a time when. . .”  They don’t want to hear about the puppy you found and worked diligently to reunite it with it’s owner.  They want to hear about a patient interaction with as many details as you can remember.  They want to hear how, even as a beginner, you were able to successfully navigate the situation or, how you learned from a particular mistake and how it helped you grow.  So write that situation down so you can refresh yourself on the details when it’s time for that interview.  You can even go a step further and submit your reflection so nursing students from all over can learn from your experience and add ‘Guest Editor‘ to your resume.

Below are some probing questions for you to answer to help with your assignment.  Not all of them need to be answered.  They are just there to help you get started by reflecting on your patient encounter that day.


  • What’s the brief history of the patient? (to familiarize the reader with the patient)
  • Describe the context of the incident (shift, time of day, available resources).
  • Describe what happened in detail, including as much dialogue as possible.
  • What were your concerns at the time? What were the conflicts? (ie. I wanted to stay with the patient but, time was running out to give my 13:00 meds.)
  • What were you thinking about as the situation was unfolding?
  • What were the questions you wish you had answers for circling in your head?
  • What were you watching out for this situation as a common complication of their condition?
  • What were you feeling during and after the incident?
  • Who did you ask for assistance and did they give you any guidance or help?
  • What were the hunches you had about this patient/family?
  • What were your priorities at the time?
  • Did your priorities change the situation? When and How?
  • Did anything take you by surprise during the situation?
  • Have you worked with similar patients before?
  • Did any other particular cases come to mine while you were working with this patient/family?
  • Were there things you learned from books/lectures/Student Nurse Journey, that guided you in this situation?
  • What guidelines would you advise other nurses for managing this situation?
  • Would that change if you were talking to an inexperienced nurse? An expert nurse?
  • What did you find most satisfying or disparaging about the situation?
  • Did you have a prior clinical situation that changed the way you deal with patients and/or their families that you used as a model for this occasion?


The above questions were adapted from: Clinical Wisdom and Interventions in Acute and Critical Care, Second Edition By Patricia Benner, RN, PhD, FAAN, Patricia Hooper-Kyriakidis, PhD, MSN, Daphne Stannard, RN, PhD, CCRN

Hello, I’m Karen Kearsley, RN, BSN, the creator and editor of Student Nurse Journey. Combining nursing knowledge and programming skills my mission is to help nursing students. I enjoy providing students assistance with difficult nursing topics by presenting resources in a variety of multimedia formats with many contributing authors. It’s the showcasing and celebrating students’ original work and accomplishments that make up my favorite pages. I hope not only help students in their education but to also promote a culture of students helping students and have that carry on to nurses helping nurses throughout their careers.

Karen Kearsley

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