Reflective Practice Groups for nurses: perceptions and preferences, considerations, and cautions

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Phoebe Rattray
Christopher Dawber
Prudence M Millear


Nursing, reflective practice groups, secondary traumatic stress


Objective: Study 5, from a series of six, examines the influence of attendance rates and personal attendance preferences on the effectiveness of Reflective Practice Groups (RPGs). It also explores participant perceptions regarding benefits and barriers of RPG. This article presents the current study in context of associated research and attempts to synthesise the collective findings. Background: Nursing can be associated with burnout, secondary traumatic stress (STS) and compassion fatigue. RPGs might help mitigate these negative impacts. Study Design/Methods: This cross-sectional study surveyed a cohort of 190 nurses (88% female) using validated scales to assess professional quality of life (ProQOL), job satisfaction (JS) and psychological distress, alongside perceived effectiveness of RPG, attendance rates and preferences. Open-ended questions explored perceived barriers and benefits to attendance. Results: Nurses who attended less RPGs reported higher STS. Those who preferred to go more frequently also reported higher STS however level of attendance and personal preference did not affect each other. Nurses attending ‘as often as groups are run’ also rated the effectiveness of RPG more highly. Other outcome measures were not significant for either variable. Perceived benefits of RPG included sharing, support, cohesiveness, skills development and facilitatory alliance. Barriers included workloads, rostering, time constraints and discomfort in a group setting. Discussion: The majority of nurses reported higher STS, preferred to attend RPGs more frequently, and rated them as more effective. Nurses who attended more RPGs reported significantly lower STS, indicating a restorative benefit. The lack of significance for Compassion Satisfaction (CS) ratings contrasted with findings of earlier studies. Logistical issues and discomfort in groups were barriers to RPG attendance. Perceived benefits related to personal and workgroup development. Alongside findings from the overarching project, results indicate a positive correlation between effective RPGs, personal and job resources, and aspects of ProQOL. Conclusion: Nurses with higher STS find RPGs more useful and want to attend more often. Higher RPG attendance is associated with lower STS. Voluntary attendance, facilitatory alliance, promotion of psychological safety, and organisational support are key considerations. In context of the overarching project, RPG attendance has been positively correlated with various aspects of ProQOL, personal and job resources. Cause and effect are still not clear and further research is required.

What is already known about the topic?

  • RPGs are positively correlated with personal and job resources and CS.

  • Barriers to reflecting in RPGs include workplace logistical issues.

What this paper adds:

  • Greater RPG attendance is associated with lower STS.

  • Nurses with higher STS prefer to attend more often and find RPGs more useful.

  • Discomfort in a group setting is an important consideration and should be addressed through effective facilitation and management of group process to promote psychological safety.

  • RPGs have now been positively associated with a greater number of personal resources, job resources and aspects ProQOL.

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