Critical Incident Analysis

A critical incident is something that happens, either positively or negatively, that may cause someone to reflect on what has happened and maybe rethink the events. Critical Incident Analysis can help to facilitate reflective practice or reflective learning by enabling nurses to explore their feelings on a certain subject. [1-2] It is a valuable learning tool that can be used as a starting point for evidence based practice. It can also be included within a professional portfolio. [3]

A critical incident could be a medication error, an interaction between a patient and staff member, or the circumstances surrounding a patient’s death. The critical incident may only be significant for the individual(s) involved or it may affect the whole team.

Critical incident analysis involves focusing on an event, including analysing the circumstances surrounding it, the actions of those involved, responses to the event and the outcomes. The result should be a better understanding of how practice can be improved. [4]

  1. Mulligan A. Should dying patients be monitored? A reflective analysis of a critical incident. Nurs Crit Care. 2005 May-Jun;10(3):122-6; discussion 127-8.
  2. Alphonso C. Reflection on a critical incident. Contemp Nurse. 2007 Feb;24(1):89-92.
  3. Hilliard C. Using structured reflection on a critical incident to develop a professional portfolio. Nurs Stand. 2006 Sep 20-26;21(2):35-40.
  4. Vachon B, LeBlanc J. Effectiveness of past and current critical incident analysis on reflective learning and practice change.Med Educ. 2011 Sep:45(9):894-904. 

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Last updated 22 January 2017