Clinicians recognize insight as important for safe independent medical practice. Clinical education literature focuses on self-reflection. The aim of this review is to describe how clinical educators conceptualize reflection and ask is it analogous to how clinicians conceptualize insight?.
Using PRISMA guidelines, a systematic review of the literature around insight and reflection in postgraduate medical education was undertaken. A thematic analysis of the concepts of insight and reflection was performed.
A total of 75 reports were included in the analysis. The literature focussed predominantly on reflection with little discussion of insight. Three main themes were generated: episodic reflection; cyclic reflection; reflection as a state. Reflection as a state seemed to be the professional quality most often aspired to but was less well defined in terms of educational interventions. When more than one model was described, it was often with a reflective state being the ideal that episodic or cyclic reflection may approximate. It is not clear that it is possible to progress up the hierarchy.
We present a novel description of a hierarchy from discrete episodes of reflection, to cyclic processes that involve reflection, through to a state in which the practitioner is reflective. There is no unified understanding of how an individual ascends this hierarchy, or a cohesive description of what insight is for an independent medical practitioner. This review highlights the need for research into how practicing clinicians conceptualize and characterize insight in their training and practice.