In 1993, both the senior lecturers of Oxford Brookes University published a literature review of all the existing models and reflective practices. This highlighted that different authors that have developed their own reflective practices are quite similar and the only difference lies in the terminologies they have used.

This theory of reflection given by Atkins and Murphy is based on the practice of reflecting on your work and then mindfully analyzing decisions to better your future actions.

Additionally, it states that once you experience something it is natural that you would reflect on it. In these cases, this model allows you to think through that experience, examine your feelings, and better your future actions.

Exactly a year later, Atkins and Murphy 1994 developed a framework for the reflective practice process. Both of the authors stated, "Despite the differences in terminology and detail within these authors' accounts of reflective processes, key stages can be identified from their writings. Although the stages are in reality integrated, it is useful to disentangle them and represent them in a clinical way.”

Five stages of Atkins and Murphy's model of reflection

Further, Sue Atkins and Kathy Murphy divided their reflective practice into 5 crucial stages mentioned below.

Stage 1: Awareness

According to Atkins and Murphy, the very first step in every reflective practice is to gain enough knowledge about one’s triggers and the factors that could have caused the discomfort they are experiencing. This can be achieved by conducting an effective SWOT analysis of an individual. In the cases of positive reflection, one might want to gain self-awareness in terms of identifying ways of producing similar results. Hence, the authors state that self-awareness in terms of feelings and thoughts is really essential for individuals working on reflective practice, and the questions for the same are mentioned below

  • Which occurrences had a major effect on your emotions?
    In this, you will highlight the different aspects that impacted your emotions in one way or the other.
  • What were you thinking at the time of the situation?
    While answering this question, you will focus on expressing the thoughts you had during that period of time.
  • What exactly were your feelings right after the situation occurred?
    After describing your thoughts during the situation, you will highlight the feelings you felt right after the situation or experience you are reflecting upon is ended.
  • What are your feelings right now about the situation you are reflecting upon?
    Lastly, you will highlight the feelings you are feeling right now while you are reflecting on your situation in the past.

Stage 2: Describe

After gaining effective knowledge of self-awareness, The next stage of the model focuses on describing the event in detail to understand the context of the situation you are reflecting upon. In this step, the individuals need to critically analyze the situation and every key event that occurred in the situation. Once all the details are critically described in an efficient manner, you will be able to analyze and evaluate the situation more effectively, which is crucial for some other future steps of the model. Some essential questions are

  • What, where, when, and why did things happen the way they did?
    After describing your feelings, the next step is to give the details of the event you are reflecting upon. The details can include the location, event description, time of the event occurrence and reason behind the occurrence of the event can be included.
  • What was your contribution to the situation?
    In this, you will highlight your actions that contributed to the situation. This section can cover both the positive and negative aspects of the event.
  • How other factors and elements were involved?
    While answering this question, you will focus on highlighting the involvement of other factors or elements in the situation. This can include any sub situation or other people that were involved in the situation can be included while explaining this section.

Stages of Atkins and Murphy's model of reflection

Stage 3: Analyze

In stage 3, an individual will analyze the assumptions made by them before they had the actual experience. After this, every assumption will be cross-countered. In addition to the cross-counter assumptions, individuals will also explore the alternatives of the participant in terms of the actions they took. Some assisting questions related to this stage of the framework are mentioned below.

  • What were your previous assumptions about the situation?
    In this, you will highlight the prior assumptions you had before the occurrence of the situation.
  • What was the actual reality of the situation?
    After explaining the assumptions, you will highlight the reality of the situation you are reflecting upon.
  • What was the difference between your assumptions and reality?
    After explaining both assumptions and reality, you will highlight the contrast between the two.

Stage 4: Evaluate

This stage of the model will focus on evaluating the knowledge you gained from the critical analysis of the situation. In this section, you will gradually evaluate whether the gained knowledge is helping you in problem-solving or solving the issue of your discomfort. Some assisting questions that might help you in effective reflective writing are

  • What knowledge did you get from your analysis?
    As this is the evaluation stage, you will highlight the knowledge you gained after conducting an evaluation of your feelings and event occurrence.
  • How are you going to use this knowledge in the next instances?
    After effectively evaluating the situation, you will highlight the ways in which you can implement the knowledge gained from this experience’s evaluation and analysis.

Stage 5: Identify

The last but definitely not the least stage focused on the identification of key learnings that the individuals need to draw out to complete the process of reflection. Till now, you have effectively assessed all your emotions, situations, and knowledge meticulously. So, now by combining the insights gained from all four stages, you can critically draw out the learnings and the action plan to use that learning in an efficient way for future situations. Some assisting questions that can assist you with the same are mentioned below

  • What have you learned so far?
    In this, you will highlight the learnings you got from gaining effective knowledge of the situation.
  • How will you use this learning in future similar situations?
    While answering this question, you will highlight the different ways in which you can apply your learnings from the situation to future similar situations.

Now after getting the effective knowledge of the model, next comes the example of implementation of the model for better comprehension.

Atkins and Murphy's model of reflection example in nursing

Case assessment - This reflective example will highlight the experience of a nurse who faces the challenge of getting emotionally attached to the patient. This reflection will focus on her challenges and the ways in which she dealt with the issue of emotional attachment.

Stage 1: Self-awareness

It's been almost a week since I joined nursing health care and I am quite nervous about starting a career I always wanted to be in. But I always had one fear that intrigued me when I had to tell someone's relatives that their close ones are no more. Although it's part of my job, somehow, I always felt that it would be so disheartening for people to know that they will never see their loved ones smiling again. When the incident happened, when I actually had to encounter my biggest fear, I experienced goosebumps in my whole body and I actually shivered out of anxiety. After I told the father that their son was no more, he broke into tears in front of my eyes which made me nervous and anxious. Even thinking of the time right now gives me chills down my throat that it could be so disheartening to deliver this message to someone.


Stage 2: Describe

Christen was a third-stage colorectal cancer patient and I was in charge of his dressing and other essential needs. Stage 3 colon cancer is when a mass of cells also known as a tumor spreads or metastasizes beyond the lining of the colon to nearby nodes of lymph (Myhre & Sifris, 2022). Christen was one of the most delightful people I have ever met in my life. He used to dance, make us all laugh, and kept himself busy every single day. He never made us feel like he was a third-year cancer patient and his chances of survival were minimal. Then, it was a regular chemo day for Christen, before going in he promised that after coming back, we would do the jigsaw puzzle together. But that day, there were some extra complications and doctors found that the infection in Christen's body was spreading like wildfire. That was the reason doctors were not able to save Christen that day. Besides, me, being in charge now, had to inform his parents that we had lost him. I called his father and his first question was how is Christen?' I didn't want to give him the news over the phone, so I asked him to reach the hospital as soon as possible. As he arrived, I explained everything to him and his father broke down listening to the fact that his 25-year-old Christen was no longer with us. During this situation, the environment of the hospital was quite negative because there were 4 sudden deaths in our department. This even made the situation worse.


Stage 3: Analyze

If I think about my college time and remember the time when I used to assume this moment, I always thought that it would be difficult. In reality, I realized that it was not at all easy to break the news to somebody's parents that their loved ones would not be with them for the rest of their lives. But the difference here between my assumption and reality is that I never thought that we as nurses in-charge would get so attached to the patients and although the pain would not be equal to the pain of family, we would still feel hurt.


Stage 4: Evaluation

From the above incident, I know that this is going to happen a million times in my life again and now I will have two choices every time. Either I can break down like I did this time or I can work on this and start getting strong.After effectively gaining from this experience, I got to know that making myself stronger will only help me in getting the efficient energy to break down the news.


Stage 5: Identify

From this incident, I identified that being a nurse is not an easy option and it is human nature to get attached to a person you take care of 24/7. But I also identified that getting attached too much to a patient will never benefit my peace of mind (Young, 2020). Hence, it is essential to take care of the patient because that is my primary duty but I also need to ensure that I don't get attached mentally to a patient as I did with Cristen because it will only make it difficult for me.In the future, I will make sure that I will not get emotionally attached to the patients from the next time. To prevent that emotional connection, I will ensure to avoid getting indulge in personal communication with the patient of any sort. However, this in no way applies that I will decrease the quality of service that I will provide to the patient. I will just ensure that the emotional attachment with the patient is low.


How does Atkins and Murphy's model of reflection differ from other reflection models?

Atkins and Murphy's model of reflection shares similarities with other reflection models, but its distinguishing feature lies in its three-step structure: "What?", "So what?", and "Now what?" This sequential approach helps individuals break down their experiences and learning into specific components for deeper analysis and application.

Can Atkins and Murphy's model of reflection be used by teams or groups?

Yes, Atkins and Murphy's model of reflection can be used by teams or groups to collectively reflect on shared experiences or projects. The model can foster collaboration and mutual learning within the group, leading to better team performance and outcomes.

What are some limitations of Atkins and Murphy's Model of Reflection?

Some limitations of Atkins and Murphy's Model of Reflection include its simplicity, potential subjectivity leading to biased insights, and its focus primarily on personal experiences. Additionally, engaging in reflective practices may be time-consuming, and effective reflection requires critical thinking skills, which not everyone may possess naturally. Despite these limitations, individuals can address them by combining the model with other reflection models, seeking feedback, and adapting the reflection process to specific contexts.


Myhre, J., & Sifris,, D. (2022). What Does Stage 3 Colon Cancer Mean?. Retrieved 29 August 2022, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/stage-3-colon-cancer-5090306

Young, K. (2020) Vulnerability: The key to close relationships, Hey Sigmund. Available at: https://www.heysigmund.com/vulnerability-the-key-to-close-relationships/ (Accessed: November 22, 2022).