“What? So What? Now What?”

Applying Borton and Rolfe’s Models of Reflexive Practice in Healthcare Contexts


  • Martyn Skinner Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
  • David Mitchell University of Glasgow




Boston, reflective practice, reflexive practice, questions, Rolfe, structure and flexibility


Healthcare chaplains as healthcare professionals are expected to use reflective practice to develop their work. This article describes how reflexive practice is critical to practitioners doing this. It outlines how Terry Borton’s process of reflection arose out of a secondary school context; and contends that his simple three step model is capable of facilitating profound insights in healthcare too. The way in which Gary Rolfe expands Borton’s model is explained, showing how he was seeking to make it more comprehensive and credible. Finally, a way of combining Borton and Rolfe’s models is described and pictured. It is argued that it is both structured and flexible enough to fit the experiences, learning needs and time available to healthcare practitioners.

Author Biographies

Martyn Skinner, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Martyn Skinner is a Hospital Chaplain in the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

David Mitchell, University of Glasgow

David Mitchell is Programme leader for Healthcare Chaplaincy at the University of Glasgow.


Borton, T. (1970) Reach, Touch and Teach. New York: McGraw-Hill Paperbacks.

Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.

Murray, S. A., M. Kendall, K. Boyd and A. Sheik (2005) “Illness Trajectories and Palliative Care”. BMJ vol. 330. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7498.1007

Nolan, S. (2012) Spiritual Care at the End of Life. The Chaplain as a “Hopeful Presence”. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publications.

Rolfe, G. (1996) Closing the Theory-Practice Gap. A New Paradigm for Nursing. Oxford: Butterworth/Heinemann.

Rolfe, G., M. Jasper and D. Freshwater (2010) Critical Reflection in Practice. 2nd edn. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

The Cochrane Collaboration (2013) “Support for Mothers, Fathers and Families after Perinatal Death”. London: The Cochrane Library, Issue 6. Available at: http://www.cochranelibrary.com/

UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy (2015) Spiritual and Religious Care Capabilities and Competencies for Healthcare Chaplains. Cambridge: Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy.



How to Cite

Skinner, M., & Mitchell, D. (2016). “What? So What? Now What?”: Applying Borton and Rolfe’s Models of Reflexive Practice in Healthcare Contexts. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 4(1), 10–19. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.v4i1.28972

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