Application of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle in Nursing

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle was developed in 1988 by Graham Gibbs to give structure to the idea of learning from experiences. This reflective cycle offers a framework for examining experiences. Given its cyclic nature, the model lends itself really well to repeated experiences. Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle in nursing has allowed medical practitioners to help patients learn and plan from things they either did well or didn’t go too well as a result of a medical condition.

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Gibbs' reflective cycle in nursing

Helping People Learn from Experience

Most people, medically challenged or not, learn best from experience. However, if you don’t reflect on your experiences, and don’t consciously think about how to perform a task better next time, it will become tough to learn anything at all in life.

Here’s where Gibbs Reflective Cycle in nursing is useful, especially for patients suffering from memory loss after an accident or other medical condition. Nurses can use this reflective cycle to help patients make sense of different situations, so they can understand what they’re doing well and what they could improve on and do better in the future.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle in Nursing Model

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle in nursing is an effective way to work through different levels of experiences with patience as it requires different training situations. It can either be a stand-alone experience or a situation that requires the patient to go through it frequently. For instance, training your leg muscles to walk again after an accident.

Gibbs initially advocated for the use of this model in repeated situations. However, its principles and stages apply equally well for stand-alone experiences too. If done with a single experience, the action plan of the model may likely become more general. You may also need to consider how you apply your conclusions in the future.

Gibbs’ reflective cycle in nursing has different stages of the model with several helpful questions to help patients remember and learn from experience. You don’t necessarily have to go through all the questions outlined or answer all of them. They can, however, guide you on the sort of things that actually make sense and what to include in each training stage.

About the Model

Graham Gibbs described this reflective cycle in his book “Learning by Doing,” which makes it particularly useful to teach patients to learn from situations they experience regularly. The cycle is especially helpful for patients who don’t get through all the stages well.

Think of Gibbs reflective cycle in nursing as a type of formal reflection that draws on research and uses theory as to how most effectively you can practice the process of reflection. For this reason, Gibbs reflection cycle is broken down into 6 key stages that include:

  • Description: explored the context of events and covers fine details like what happened, who was present, and where it happened.
  • Feelings: encourages the reflector, in this case, patient, to explore his/her thoughts at the time of the event and any feelings they might have had.
  • Evaluation: encourages the nurse to concise judgment about the event and use the reflection to consider part of the training went well and which sections went less well.
  • Analysis: delves even deeper into the reflection of the event. This stage also encourages the nurse to break down the event into even smaller episodes to enable him/her to facilitate a more accurate analysis.
  • Conclusions: explores all potential alternatives that the nurse may use to deal with the situation that’s being reflected upon at any one time.
  • Action plan: the final stage in the reflection process. Here’s where an action plan is drawn that will draw with the situation more effectively if or when it arises again.

The stages above are a brief of the whole reflection process of Graham Gibbs. We will give each stage in the model a fuller description and guiding questions to ask yourself in the process. Where possible, even share examples of how these examples look in a reflection.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Application in Nursing

Gibbs’ reflective cycle in nursing is just one model used in reflection. There are other similarly effective models of reflection that are just as effective and get the job done.

Test the Gibbs reflective cycle in nursing and see how it works for you. You may realize that only a few of the questions in the model apply and are more effective in your case. If so, ensure you focus on those. However, thinking more critically about each stage in the model will help to engage your learning experience more.

It’s not sufficient to have only an experience to learn. You may just as easily forget those experiences that you learn if you don’t reflect upon them. You will lose that learning potential altogether. It is from the thoughts and feelings that emerge from the Gibbs reflective cycle in nursing model that generalizations and concepts are generated. These generalizations are what allow you to tackle new situations more effectively.

Detailed Overview of The Stages of Gibbs Reflective Cycle in Nursing Model

Depending on the context you’re doing the reflection in, it is probably best to use different levels of details. Using this six-step model should enable you to identify your strengths, areas that need development. Hence, determine the best actions to take to enhance your professional skills.

Below is a more detailed scenario of the model stages mentioned above:


This is the first stage of the model. Occasionally, it should be a brief description of the event or experience to set the scene of the experiment and give context. Here’s where you get to describe the situation in great detail. Incorporate the “what happened” questions as the main points in this stage. Your feelings about the situation and conclusions come later.

A few helpful questions to consider using at this stage include:

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who else was present?
  • What did you or the other present person do?
  • Why were you there?
  • What was the outcome?
  • What did you think would happen?


This stage is meant more to explore any thoughts or feelings that you may have had during the experience. You want to know how these thoughts might have impacted the experience itself. Consider, therefore, what you were thinking at the time and how you felt before the incident.

Some helpful questions to consider asking at this stage include:

  • How did you feel before the experience?
  • How did you feel during the experience?
  • Did you feel any difference after the experience?

Generally, this is a short descriptive text that tries to understand your feelings, rather than being analytical.


At this stage, you can evaluate what you think worked and what didn’t work as well in the situation. In addition, ensure you are as objective and honest with yourself as possible. Focus on all aspects, both positive and negative, of the situation. It doesn’t matter if it was mainly one aspect or the other.

The evaluation process looks at both the positives and negatives of the experience and uses it to describe critical elements that went particularly well at that precise time.

Helpful questions that will help you get better results of the situation:

  • What went well about the situation?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • Was there anything good or bad about the experience?
  • What did you or other people contribute to the situation?
  • Was there anything that didn’t go well or didn’t work? (if appropriate, also include what other people did or didn’t do well)


This stage allows you to create a more definite sense of what happened. Up until this stage, you focused more on the details surrounding what happened in the situation. The analysis stage enables you to extract meaning from this. You mainly want to target different aspects of the situation that went well or poorly and question why what happened, happened. This is also the natural stage to include academic literature if you have any.

Analysis tries to explain why certain experiences were positive or negative, and that’s why it forms the largest section of the reflection. You must also take into account other critical points made in the previous stages and identify helpful factors like past experiences and carrying out research.

Helpful questions to ask at this stage:

  • Why did things go well?
  • Why didn’t anything go well?
  • What sense can you make of the situation?
  • What knowledge can help to understand the situation better?


At this stage, you can make concise conclusions about what happened. Use it to summarize your learning experience and highlight what changes you could have made to your actions that would have improved the outcome now and in the future. This section should be a natural response in regards to the previous stages. Focus only on what you have learned from this experience.

Helpful questions to use at this stage:

  • What did you learn from this situation?
  • Do you need to culture other skills to handle such a situation better?
  • What other things could you have done?

Gibbs' reflective cycle in nursing

Action Plan

This stage entails what you can do differently when presented with similar or related situations in the future. Here is where you also think about steps you can take that will help you act differently. This allows you not only to plan what you’ll do differently but also how to make sure it happens.

Notwithstanding, sometimes the realization itself is enough. Other times, however, you might do much better with reminders.

A few helpful questions to consider asking at this stage include:

  • If I could do the same thing again, would you do anything differently?
  • How can you develop the skills needed?
  • How do I make sure that I act differently the next time a similar situation presents itself?

Why Is Gibbs Reflective Cycle Good in Nursing?

Gibbs’ reflective cycle in nursing has proved to be very effective, especially toward learning from experience. Self-reflection and reflection of events that occurred within your environment are vital for workers in the nursing profession.

Moreover, reflection enables medical professionals to develop and challenge their existing knowledge and maximize the opportunity to learn and avoid mistakes they might have made in the past.

The two forms of professional reflection include:

  • Reflection-on-action
  • Reflection-in-action

Reflection-on-action: this form of reflection encourages the affected persons to re-live their past events. To this end, the reflection inspires the development of a more effective action plan to help you out of any similar events that occur.

However, this type of reflection focuses more on negative aspects of your actions rather than positive behaviors demonstrated during the event that’s being reflected upon.

Reflection-in-action: this is a much deeper, more interactive form of reflection. It encourages individuals to reflect on and observe past situations from their own point of view or that of others around them during the time of the event. Reflection and self-reflection upon events that occurred within the work environment are vital for nurses and other individuals within the medical profession.

Gibbs’ reflective cycle in nursing just one model you can use in reflection. There are also other reflective models that are just as effective and get the job done.

Driscoll Model of Reflection

The Driscoll model of reflection is perhaps the simplest model you’ll ever come across. In the first place, this model of reflection is easy to follow with cued questions. This makes it a great organizational tool since it’s easy to remember. The questions you should be asking are:

  • “What”
  • “So what?”
  • “Now what?”

The only downsides are that it doesn’t lead to deeper reflection about the individual, only the situation.

Kolb Reflective Cycle

The Kolb reflective model is more of a basic starter type of cycle. It consists mainly of doing, asking how or why, making judgments, and testing out. Kolb reflective cycle explains why different people naturally prefer to use a single specific different learning style.

Different factors influence people’s preferred styles. For instance, educational experiences, social environment, or each individual’s basic cognitive structure. Whatever influences your preferred choice of style, your learning style preference is actually a product of two different variables or choices that you make. Kolb presents this as the lines of an axis with ‘conflicting’ models on either end.

John’s Model of Reflection

This reflective framework is based more on a blend of Johns model of reflection published in Johns. This model is more sophisticated and ideal for use by:

  • An experienced reflector
  • Individuals wishing to reflect at a ‘degree level.’

Johns model of structured reflection is designed more for organizations’ use as it examines situations relative to the environment. The model provides prompt, easy to follow questions that can be used in any manner. They are, however, more effective when used in a naturally continuous flow.

Criticisms are that the prompt questions aren’t firmly structured. This could be confusing, especially for inexperienced individuals who don’t which questions are salient and which ones could be omitted for their particular reflection. The vast amount of questions could also make the process time-consuming.

Rolfe Reflective Model

This reflective model is based on the questions:

  • “What?”
  • “So what?”
  • “What now?”

The model is designed in such a way that it repeats these questions at different levels, with progressively deeper reflection at each level. The levels used in Rolfe reflective model are theoretical, descriptive, and action-oriented. It’s based on Borton’s developmental model that works through the same questions but at different levels to help nurses develop from novice to expert.

The only downside about the model is that it may be too sophisticated for a newbie who’s new to the reflection model.

Bortons Model of Reflection

Borton’s development framework is fairly more straightforward and easier to use compared to other reflective frameworks. Bortons model of reflection allows you to reflect more without necessarily having the structure in front of you. This makes the Bortons model a more favored framework for many healthcare professionals.

Many medical students find this reflective aspect to be somewhat difficult since it involves some degree of change. Reflecting on a difficult experience isn’t always easy. You may need the presence of a supervisor or mentor to assist you through the process. The process should always end a solid development plan. All experiences, good or bad, provide an opportunity to learn.

Schön Model of Reflection

Schön describes both reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. The model focuses more on individuals gaining professional artistry and increasing their professional confidence.

The only downside is that the model doesn’t provide extensive guidance for highlighting the two forms of reflection.

Atkins & Murphy Model of Reflection

This model provides a much deeper form of reflection by building on your previous experiences. It encourages individuals to consider assumptions.

It may, however, not be suitable for beginners or individuals looking quick reflections on-the-go.

Brookfield Model of Reflection

The Brookfield cycle is a more personal development model that analyses situations from different perspectives. The model also looks at events through four lenses that include: self, patient, colleagues, and research.

Deeper reflection leads to a more personal development process by taking into account personal self-reflection, peer assessment, patient feedback, and information picked up from academic literature. The model also more suitable for individuals who are motivated for self-directed learning.

Its downside is that it only covers four different viewpoints of reflection. Therefore, it may not be the most suitable model for individuals who want to look at specific areas in depth from one angle.

Mezirow Model of Transformative Learning

This reflective model consists of ten different elements that can lead to the student or patient experiencing a change in perspective. This reflector theory believes that individuals can be inhibited from growth or development due to the mental frames of reference they use to make sense of the world.

Mezirow’s framework is especially helpful in helping learners to challenge their assumptions, beliefs, and values and, in doing so, consider alternative views of behaving. The model also helps the learner to develop a solid action plan that involves the acquisition of new skills to enable them to assume different roles and behavioral ways.

The only downside of using this model is that it’s only suitable for individuals who are self-motivated and have time to integrate their learnings from the model into their own behaviors and schemas. This makes it more of a long-term model. Plus, it focuses on rational rather than emotional aspects.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle Example Communication

Generally, communication is a critical aspect of every nurses’ role. Many renowned theorists like Peplau, Rogers, and King all emphasize therapeutic communication as a key part of nursing. Naturally, it forms a primary focus of the nursing role.

In similar fashion, communication contains several components that include: presence, listening, disclosure, caring, acceptance, authenticity, empathy, and respect. However, communication can create barriers between nurses and clients as much as it can facilitate development. Hence, learning by doing Gibbs reflective cycle in nursing makes for a much more logical option.

The Gibbs learning by doing model describes this experience as a transitional process that’s dynamic and constantly changing.

Gibbs reflective cycle example communication involves the interaction between the nurse and the patient. For the interaction to be meaningful, information must be exchanged, which consists of the nurse adopting a holistic approach that eventually forms the basis of your therapeutic relationship with the patient.

What Is the Difference Between Kolb And Gibbs Reflective Cycle?

Kolb’s Reflective Cycle Perspective

Kolb’s experimental learning theory is based on two levels that include the four-stage cycle and the four separate learning styles. In contrast to Gibbs’ reflective cycle in nursing, Kolb’s theory is concerned more with the learner’s individual’s internal cognitive processes. According to Kolb, learning involves the procurement of abstract concepts that individuals can apply flexibly in different situations.

Gibb’s Reflective Cycle Perspective

Gibbs reflective cycle in nursing is a more theoretical model that’s often used by patients as a framework in assignments and nurses as a learning process. Yet the model simply means learning from experience. Gibbs’ reflective cycle in nursing is a 6-point plan that critically reflects on nurses’ performance and emotional feelings.

Gibbs reflective cycle in nursing also incorporates several nursing homework sites like My Homework Writers where students can get homework help, especially assignments that require reflective writing. myhomeworkwriters.com makes the learning process more iterative and incorporates learning through repetition. For this reason, My Homework Writers is the best platform for nurses and students looking to figure out what reflective models are and how best to use them.


To sum up, this isn’t really the conclusion of your learning experience. If anything, it’s the beginning of your development process as a professional. Gibbs’ reflective cycle in nursing builds your confidence and assertiveness towards having a direct impact on your patients’ wellbeing. In short, you can continue to use this reflective cycle to chart your learning and development process and see what happens.

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