Critical thinking is a skill so important for nurses to learn, yet not an easy one to master. Much focus in the literature is on assessing or measuring a student’s or nurse’s critical thinking ability. How, as that student or nurse, can you improve your critical thinking skills?
Scheffer and Rubenfield describe critical thinking in nursing as being comprised of 11 affective components (perseverance, open-mindedness, flexibility, confidence, creativity, inquisitiveness, reflection, intellectual integrity, intuition, contextual, and perspective) and 7 cognitive skills (information seeking, discriminating, analyzing, transforming knowledge, predicting, applying standards, and logical reasoning). Thinking about these components brings to mind the following advice for fine-tuning your own critical thinking:
- Be assured that critical thinking will come with experience.
- Be open to new learning situations and seek them out when you are able.
- Be flexible. Floating to a new unit, changing shifts, or working with a different preceptor might not be all bad!
- Be confident, but not afraid to admit when there is something you don’t know. Ask questions!
- Don’t ignore your “inner voice.” Nursing intuition is a true phenomenon.
- Learn from your mistakes and those of others.
- When overwhelmed, take a moment to pause and think through a situation.
- After a code or any critical event, take some time to think about how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Was there something else that you could have done or something that you could have done differently?
- Practice your skills! Your confidence will improve and you’ll be able to recognize problems.
- Learn your facility’s policies and procedures (and know where to find them!)
- Talk with other nurses and colleagues from other disciplines. Plan care together and discuss assessments, problems, interventions, and evaluations. Communication is key!
- Plan ahead and think of potential consequences of your actions. Giving a diuretic? You might want to check your patient’s potassium.
I know there’s more advice to add here - please do so! Also, Scheffer and Rubenfield’s article was referenced in Nursing Student Stories on Learning How to Think Like a Nurse, a great read (and FREE!) from Nurse Educator.
DiVito-Thomas P. Nursing Student Stories on Learning How to Think Like a Nurse. Nurs Educ. 2005;30(3):133-136.
Scheffer BK, Rubenfield MG. A consensus statement on critical thinking in nursing. J Nurs Educ. 2000;39(8):352-359.