Critical Thinking Skills in Nursing

Instructor: Bruce Hoffman

Bruce is a critical care nurse and paramedic who holds a Master's degree in Education.

This lesson will explain how critical thinking is useful in the nursing profession. We'll discuss five actions to aid them in critical thinking: recognition, questioning, gathering information, evaluation, and communication.

What Is Critical Thinking?

When you think of who takes care of you in a hospital, you might first think of doctors. But nurses have just as much a role in keeping people healthy and safe, and often have more contact with patients overall. You want the nurses taking care of your loved one to be sharp, on top of things, and ready to deal with any situation. To do this, they'll need critical thinking skills. So, why do nurses need to think critically? The answer is simple - critical thinking helps nurses do their job - and do it well.

Critical thinking can be defined as a process to help you think and act in way that actively engages your mind through thoughtful analysis by using your observations and experiences.

Critical Thinking Is Not Just For Nurses

You might wonder, 'Is critical thinking only for nurses?' Not at all. Critical thinking helps people from all walks of life and all types of jobs to work efficiently and effectively. By using critical thinking people and businesses are able to maintain a productive work environment. Even individual adults and children can benefit from critical thinking in their daily lives.

Imagine if you never gave any situation any consideration or critical thought, such as if your car broke down, or your child started crying, or your coworkers misplaced something important. You wouldn't be very self-sufficient, self-improving, helpful, or successful!

Important Actions To Think Critically

There are many actions that can help a nurse to think critically. Five important actions are:

  1. recognition
  2. questioning
  3. information gathering
  4. evaluation
  5. communication

In order to understand critical thinking, let's look at an example. Imagine that a nurse is working on an outpatient basis with a patient who has a history of opioid abuse, though the patient has been sober for several months. In this example, you will see how critical thinking helps the nurse interpret what is now happening for the patient, thus getting the patient necessary help.

Example

First, the nurse must recognize that there is a problem; this is to say that something appears to be problematic. In this case, the nurse might notice that a patient is behaving erratically, has dilated pupils, and is not speaking clearly. Recognizing these symptoms alerts the nurse that something out of the ordinary is happening. She puts this information together with the patient's medical history and starts to suspect renewed drug abuse.

Once the problem is recognized, the nurse must question whether or not the safety concern is valid. In this example, the nurse has identified that the patient is exhibiting problematic symptoms. She thinks she must investigate further to learn whether the patient is abusing drugs.

The third action that the nurse must take is information gathering, looking for factual evidence that supports the issue or problem that you have recognized and questioned. The nurse talks to the patient about what is going on. The patient admits that she has been seeking extra medication, and lab results confirm that the patient has too much medicine in her bloodstream and is once again in danger.

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