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Chris Ostrander

Why is Critical Thinking in Nursing Important?

Critical thinking in nursing is an important skill emphasized by most experts on nursing education. Here is a simple definition of critical thinking:

Critical thinking is the ability to identify a problem, raise questions, assemble evidence to support potential solutions, determine the best solution, and plan and communicate effective steps to take to implement that solution. It also includes the ability to look back at that process and evaluate whether or not the plan of action was effective in bringing about an appropriate outcome.

Critical Thinking Skills And Nursing

Critical thinking, as it applies specifically to nursing, is an approach to nursing care that employs the steps laid out above in accomplishing good clinical outcomes, as well as providing a safe and satisfying environment for patients. The ability to evaluate situations from more than one point of view is a good example of critical thinking skills that nurses use every day, since they often act as patient advocates. The ability to identify and analyze problems is another good example, as it is crucial to accurate patient assessments, and being able to evaluate the pros and cons of potential solutions objectively is essential to employing effective interventions to address those problems.

How To Improve Critical Thinking

Not only must nursing professionals develop and practice critical nursing skills in their everyday working lives, they must learn to employ those skills consistently in a variety of situations – and quite often, under pressure, when medical emergencies occur. So what can aspiring nurses do to improve critical thinking skills as they prepare for their soon-to-be new profession?

A solid nursing education is key to developing these skills. However, simply memorizing medical terms and learning practical skills is not enough to cultivate the deeper understanding that is the foundation of nursing-related critical thinking skills. To achieve that deeper understanding, you'll need to delve into the why of things. For example, rather than simply selecting an answer on a multiple choice question and moving on, stop and think about why that answer is correct, and why the others are not. What consequences could come of choosing each of the wrong answers in a real, live clinical encounter? What are the potential benefits of the correct answer/procedure?

Apply that approach to all course materials as you pursue your nursing degree. Keep copies of old quizzes and exams to explore questions in more detail, and get a NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) review book for this type of study as well. These are books that help students prepare for NCLEX exams, which you must pass to earn your RN or LPN license. NCLEX study guides can be especially helpful for sharpening critical thinking skills, since they not only provide insight into exam questions, but also supply the rationale behind the correct answers, explaining why they are the best solution to the problem laid out in the question. It is this sort of “investigate all the possibilities from end-to-end” mindset that will help you develop the sharp critical thinking skills you'll need to be a great nurse – and build a successful and satisfying nursing career.

For more information on nursing courses, contact the Bryant & Stratton Admissions office at 1.888.273.2758.

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