Are you a critical thinker?

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.

Posted: 8/2/2010 10:41:10 AM by Cara Deming | with 2 comments

Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP
July 20. 2010 17:22
Wow - great story and outcome Marie! Thanks so much for sharing it with us here ~ keep up the amazing work!
10/13/2015 10:55:05 AM

Marie leaf RN
July 20. 2010 07:08
I have 40 yes experience as an RN and 10 as Case Manager. I used every item of critical thinking on a complex case bringing a TBI out of 3 yrs in a nursing home where he was stagnant and starving. Our HH unit had never dealt with a case this complex and accused me of premature removal from the facility, unsafe plan, unrealistic plan and working out of the scope of an RN. None of this was true and he went from chairbound to self transfers in 4 weeks with proper PT and is now washing his own dishes and nearly walking! The difference between the Don at HH and me was critical thinking. I knew he was highly motivated and just needed to got out of the NH .
10/13/2015 10:54:52 AM