Norman Olsen’s Insight on Self-Reflection

Self-Reflection: Foundation for meaningful nursing practice


Florence Nightingale lived a life of reflection.


By Norman C. Olsen

How to gain wisdom and connect with truth and your inner self are important topics for nurses to explore. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.” Self-reflection looks inward and listens to the whispers. Lautebach and Becher (1996) relate self-reflection to caring for the self. Purposeful reflection is a tool that helps nurses gain self-knowledge and insight (Palmer, 2007).

When nurses reflect, they purposefully “bend back” their attention in a focused attempt to discover personal meanings gained from professional nursing encounters and interaction with others. Lautebach and Becher suggest that self-reflection is a critical activity for nurses in their caring for others and, because it connects those who practice it with their inner selves and truth, is transformational. The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.C.) wrote, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noble; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the most bitter.”

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