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Reflective practice: too busy to bother?

It's not always easy or possible to find time for ourselves within the working day; but pausing and taking breath is often just as important as being busy, says Sue Spencer ...

Monday morning there are a number of things to worry about. These include helping my daughter get all her bits and pieces ready for school and taking her to the childminder.

I then worry about the traffic in Newcastle and whether I will get to work on time. Will I have time to get a coffee before I get into the lecture room? Will the computer work and will the students be interested? All of this can occupy an awful lot of space in my head - and then I discover they have decided to close the road I use every day to get to work! When will it all end? HELP!!!

There always seems to be yet another thing to make our lives more difficult to navigate than we would like. Just as we think we have it all sorted, along comes another obstacle to knock any complacency we have on the head. Do we now live in anxious states so that we are not taken by surprise? Do we now live pessimistic lives so that we are never disappointed, or do we find another way to “be”?

Listening to the daily news it is all too easy to become anxious and worried about what might be around the corner. The state of the global economy may not have impacted on public services last year when it all started, but now the politicians are warning us that budgets will have to be cut and services redesigned. We all know people who may have to reduce their working week, or retrain etc.

How gloomy it all seems; and with a general election next year what does it mean for community nursing and the people who receive care? I don't have an answer, so in the spirit of reflective practice it is one that I have been thinking about.

It's not always easy or possible to find time for ourselves within the working day, week or month, but if we don't, it will become more and more difficult to maintain the energy and motivation to keep going. I put a photograph of one of my favourite places (Wasdale in the Lake District) at the beginning of the lecture to remind myself to stop and think.

Rushing around and being busy is how we can show everyone how important we are; BUT pausing and taking breath is often just as important as being busy. As a teacher (lecturer) in nursing I should show, not tell, the students how they can learn.

Over the last few months I have been involved in developing an exhibition to celebrate 150 years of community nursing with the Queen's Nursing Institute at Northumbria University (see

Working on the project and with community nurses it has really struck me how what is required of a district nurse (community nurses) has changed very little over all this time. Technology and the care that is delivered might change, and diseases managed in the community may have become increasingly complex, but the essence of nursing care remains the same.

Care is about (among other things) communication, seeing the person and their family, understanding individual responses to illness and health and working alongside patients and their families during challenging and demanding times. This is what we strive for, but it isn't always so easy to do what we think is right. Finding time to think about it and a space to see how it impacts on us can often help us rediscover why we do what we do in our working life.

In a time when community services are required to “transform” to meet the needs of 21st century healthcare, what role do you have in it all?1 Do you see a place for reflective practice or are you just too busy to bother?

Let us know what you think about your own reflective practice, and the techniques and strategies you might use to keep fresh and motivated in your role. Sharing experiences and stories is a good way of learning from each other and passing the message on.

1. Department of Health. Transforming community services: ambition, action, achievement. London: DH; 2009. Available from: