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Nursing Management

January 2010, Volume 41 Number 1 , p 8 - 10


  • Traci Ashcraft BSN, RN-BC


Critical thinking skills are essential to making safe, effective clinical decisions.1 For a new nurse, the ability to integrate basic nursing knowledge with relevant clinical data requires exposure to various learning opportunities.2 Case scenario reviews and open discussion of clinical experiences are just two options that can promote professional development and enhance clinical judgment.3 Effective use of questioning and appropriate feedback from a knowledgeable mentor can also facilitate the development of critical thinking skills. Questioning not only provides an opportunity for the new nurse to evaluate her learning and identify rationales for clinical decisions, but also stimulates additional thinking.1Although many new skills will be acquired during the first year of professional practice, for a new nurse the ability to think critically traditionally takes years to develop.4 Implementing successful methods to expedite the development of critical thinking skills in new nurses has the potential to improve patient safety, nurse job satisfaction, and recruitment and retention of competent nurse professionals and create future nurse leaders.Historically, new graduate nurses orienting to our 24-bed acute care, 9-bed progressive care surgery/trauma unit will begin to display characteristics of Benner's advanced beginner nurse between 6 and 9 months of independent practice, demonstrating a gradual progression from an extreme focus on task and skill development to a level of increasing comfort with improved time management and organization skills. Although more productive and confident with their practice, they continue to struggle when attempting to integrate multiple sources of clinical data, limiting their ability to anticipate and manage changes in patient status and creating concern among coworkers, educators, and managers.5 Therefore, providing opportunities to foster the development of critical thinking skills became a priority for professional development

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