1. Hader, Richard RN, CNA, CHE, CPHQ, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

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As the father of two young boys, ages 6 and 7, I constantly find myself saying, "Quiet, I need to think!!" At times, I wonder what it would be like to have more moments of peace. Silence is a luxury I rarely have time to enjoy.

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As nurse leaders and influential team members, we're frequently asked to offer opinions, solve problems, lead conversations, and provide vision and direction. We seldom get to reflect, observe, analyze, or evaluate situations. We need to spend more time thinking critically, studying the situation at hand.


One of my doctoral program assignments was to spend time practicing the art of thinking on a daily basis. As benign as this task appears, I found it difficult to execute. How could I possibly think while bombarded by deadlines, interruptions, and requests to intervene on challenging issues? When would I be able to step away, enjoy the silence, and consider plans and actions concerning the future for my areas of responsibility? Through this experience, I learned that critical thinking helps determine priorities.


Effective leadership involves the ability to evaluate complex situations. For us to successfully solve issues, we must actively evaluate all of the problem's aspects, which we can only accomplish through much practice and a real commitment to carving out time for thinking and planning ahead.


Obtaining a complete understanding of the challenges your department faces will prove beneficial if you make time for critical thinking prior to taking action. The most important step in achieving this goal is attaining an understanding of your audience. Preparing for a meeting with frontline staff is much different than meeting with your organization's CEO. Each audience has its own unique view of how to successfully manage situations and achieve outcomes. It's vital that you appreciate their needs prior to making decisions.


Critical thinking can provide you with a more insightful understanding of yourself. It'll offer you an opportunity to be objective, less emotional, and more open-minded as you appreciate others' views and opinions. By thinking ahead, you'll gain the confidence to present fresh perspectives and new insights into burdensome concerns. Thinking critically will boost creativity and enhance the way you use and manage your time.


Each week I mark several hours on my schedule as thinking time-I call it a "nursing meeting." It's scheduled on my calendar just like any other deadline or commitment. I use these moments to prepare for upcoming events, plan ahead, rehearse my agendas, and ponder the future. I ask myself, am I meeting the needs of the staff, my colleagues, and the organization?


The next time your manager passes your office and it appears that you're not doing anything, remind him or her that, in fact, you're very busy-thinking!!