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I was recently drawn into a friendly debate on Twitter about the value of reflective writing for doctors. In the United Kingdom, all doctors are now required to record written reflections on their learning, as part of their annual appraisals. For general practitioners (GPs) these reflections have to cover a wide range of their experience during the past year. This includes clinical cases, feedback from peers and patients, quality improvement, and any complaints or significant untoward events that may have occurred. Some doctors find this arduous, and question whether it has ever improved anyone's performance as a doctor. Others, including myself, enjoy the act of writing and find it a useful way of processing complex events or seeing them in a more objective light. However, I do have some sympathy with the sceptics. Most doctors have never had any training in reflective writing. Colleagues who carry out appraisals are unlikely to have been taught how to read such reflections critically, to judge their quality, or to make the exercise a fruitful one. As a result, the experience can be dismal, and may make it seem as if reflective writing is another pointless demand placed on busy clinicians by bureaucrats and academics with nothing better to do.
In spite of this, I think there are several reasons why we should …
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