What is Critical Thinking in Nursing? (With Examples, Importance, & How to Improve)

critical thinking skills of nurses

Successful nursing requires learning several skills used to communicate with patients, families, and healthcare teams. One of the most essential skills nurses must develop is the ability to demonstrate critical thinking. If you are a nurse, perhaps you have asked if there is a way to know how to improve critical thinking in nursing? As you read this article, you will learn what critical thinking in nursing is and why it is important. You will also find 18 simple tips to improve critical thinking in nursing and sample scenarios about how to apply critical thinking in your nursing career.

What Is Critical Thinking In Nursing?

4 reasons why critical thinking is so important in nursing, 1. critical thinking skills will help you anticipate and understand changes in your patient’s condition., 2. with strong critical thinking skills, you can make decisions about patient care that is most favorable for the patient and intended outcomes., 3. strong critical thinking skills in nursing can contribute to innovative improvements and professional development., 4. critical thinking skills in nursing contribute to rational decision-making, which improves patient outcomes., what are the 8 important attributes of excellent critical thinking in nursing, 1. the ability to interpret information:, 2. independent thought:, 3. impartiality:, 4. intuition:, 5. problem solving:, 6. flexibility:, 7. perseverance:, 8. integrity:, examples of poor critical thinking vs excellent critical thinking in nursing, 1. scenario: patient/caregiver interactions, poor critical thinking:, excellent critical thinking:, 2. scenario: improving patient care quality, 3. scenario: interdisciplinary collaboration, 4. scenario: precepting nursing students and other nurses, how to improve critical thinking in nursing, 1. demonstrate open-mindedness., 2. practice self-awareness., 3. avoid judgment., 4. eliminate personal biases., 5. do not be afraid to ask questions., 6. find an experienced mentor., 7. join professional nursing organizations., 8. establish a routine of self-reflection., 9. utilize the chain of command., 10. determine the significance of data and decide if it is sufficient for decision-making., 11. volunteer for leadership positions or opportunities., 12. use previous facts and experiences to help develop stronger critical thinking skills in nursing., 13. establish priorities., 14. trust your knowledge and be confident in your abilities., 15. be curious about everything., 16. practice fair-mindedness., 17. learn the value of intellectual humility., 18. never stop learning., 4 consequences of poor critical thinking in nursing, 1. the most significant risk associated with poor critical thinking in nursing is inadequate patient care., 2. failure to recognize changes in patient status:, 3. lack of effective critical thinking in nursing can impact the cost of healthcare., 4. lack of critical thinking skills in nursing can cause a breakdown in communication within the interdisciplinary team., useful resources to improve critical thinking in nursing, youtube videos, my final thoughts, frequently asked questions answered by our expert, 1. will lack of critical thinking impact my nursing career, 2. usually, how long does it take for a nurse to improve their critical thinking skills, 3. do all types of nurses require excellent critical thinking skills, 4. how can i assess my critical thinking skills in nursing.

• Ask relevant questions • Justify opinions • Address and evaluate multiple points of view • Explain assumptions and reasons related to your choice of patient care options

5. Can I Be a Nurse If I Cannot Think Critically?

critical thinking skills of nurses

The Value of Critical Thinking in Nursing

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN

  • How Nurses Use Critical Thinking
  • How to Improve Critical Thinking
  • Common Mistakes

Male nurse checking on a patient

Some experts describe a person’s ability to question belief systems, test previously held assumptions, and recognize ambiguity as evidence of critical thinking. Others identify specific skills that demonstrate critical thinking, such as the ability to identify problems and biases, infer and draw conclusions, and determine the relevance of information to a situation.

Nicholas McGowan, BSN, RN, CCRN, has been a critical care nurse for 10 years in neurological trauma nursing and cardiovascular and surgical intensive care. He defines critical thinking as “necessary for problem-solving and decision-making by healthcare providers. It is a process where people use a logical process to gather information and take purposeful action based on their evaluation.”

“This cognitive process is vital for excellent patient outcomes because it requires that nurses make clinical decisions utilizing a variety of different lenses, such as fairness, ethics, and evidence-based practice,” he says.

How Do Nurses Use Critical Thinking?

Successful nurses think beyond their assigned tasks to deliver excellent care for their patients. For example, a nurse might be tasked with changing a wound dressing, delivering medications, and monitoring vital signs during a shift. However, it requires critical thinking skills to understand how a difference in the wound may affect blood pressure and temperature and when those changes may require immediate medical intervention.

Nurses care for many patients during their shifts. Strong critical thinking skills are crucial when juggling various tasks so patient safety and care are not compromised.

Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D., RN, is a nurse educator with a clinical background in surgical-trauma adult critical care, where critical thinking and action were essential to the safety of her patients. She talks about examples of critical thinking in a healthcare environment, saying:

“Nurses must also critically think to determine which patient to see first, which medications to pass first, and the order in which to organize their day caring for patients. Patient conditions and environments are continually in flux, therefore nurses must constantly be evaluating and re-evaluating information they gather (assess) to keep their patients safe.”

The COVID-19 pandemic created hospital care situations where critical thinking was essential. It was expected of the nurses on the general floor and in intensive care units. Crystal Slaughter is an advanced practice nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU) and a nurse educator. She observed critical thinking throughout the pandemic as she watched intensive care nurses test the boundaries of previously held beliefs and master providing excellent care while preserving resources.

“Nurses are at the patient’s bedside and are often the first ones to detect issues. Then, the nurse needs to gather the appropriate subjective and objective data from the patient in order to frame a concise problem statement or question for the physician or advanced practice provider,” she explains.

Top 5 Ways Nurses Can Improve Critical Thinking Skills

We asked our experts for the top five strategies nurses can use to purposefully improve their critical thinking skills.

Case-Based Approach

Slaughter is a fan of the case-based approach to learning critical thinking skills.

In much the same way a detective would approach a mystery, she mentors her students to ask questions about the situation that help determine the information they have and the information they need. “What is going on? What information am I missing? Can I get that information? What does that information mean for the patient? How quickly do I need to act?”

Consider forming a group and working with a mentor who can guide you through case studies. This provides you with a learner-centered environment in which you can analyze data to reach conclusions and develop communication, analytical, and collaborative skills with your colleagues.

Practice Self-Reflection

Rhoads is an advocate for self-reflection. “Nurses should reflect upon what went well or did not go well in their workday and identify areas of improvement or situations in which they should have reached out for help.” Self-reflection is a form of personal analysis to observe and evaluate situations and how you responded.

This gives you the opportunity to discover mistakes you may have made and to establish new behavior patterns that may help you make better decisions. You likely already do this. For example, after a disagreement or contentious meeting, you may go over the conversation in your head and think about ways you could have responded.

It’s important to go through the decisions you made during your day and determine if you should have gotten more information before acting or if you could have asked better questions.

During self-reflection, you may try thinking about the problem in reverse. This may not give you an immediate answer, but can help you see the situation with fresh eyes and a new perspective. How would the outcome of the day be different if you planned the dressing change in reverse with the assumption you would find a wound infection? How does this information change your plan for the next dressing change?

Develop a Questioning Mind

McGowan has learned that “critical thinking is a self-driven process. It isn’t something that can simply be taught. Rather, it is something that you practice and cultivate with experience. To develop critical thinking skills, you have to be curious and inquisitive.”

To gain critical thinking skills, you must undergo a purposeful process of learning strategies and using them consistently so they become a habit. One of those strategies is developing a questioning mind. Meaningful questions lead to useful answers and are at the core of critical thinking .

However, learning to ask insightful questions is a skill you must develop. Faced with staff and nursing shortages , declining patient conditions, and a rising number of tasks to be completed, it may be difficult to do more than finish the task in front of you. Yet, questions drive active learning and train your brain to see the world differently and take nothing for granted.

It is easier to practice questioning in a non-stressful, quiet environment until it becomes a habit. Then, in the moment when your patient’s care depends on your ability to ask the right questions, you can be ready to rise to the occasion.

Practice Self-Awareness in the Moment

Critical thinking in nursing requires self-awareness and being present in the moment. During a hectic shift, it is easy to lose focus as you struggle to finish every task needed for your patients. Passing medication, changing dressings, and hanging intravenous lines all while trying to assess your patient’s mental and emotional status can affect your focus and how you manage stress as a nurse .

Staying present helps you to be proactive in your thinking and anticipate what might happen, such as bringing extra lubricant for a catheterization or extra gloves for a dressing change.

By staying present, you are also better able to practice active listening. This raises your assessment skills and gives you more information as a basis for your interventions and decisions.

Use a Process

As you are developing critical thinking skills, it can be helpful to use a process. For example:

  • Ask questions.
  • Gather information.
  • Implement a strategy.
  • Evaluate the results.
  • Consider another point of view.

These are the fundamental steps of the nursing process (assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate). The last step will help you overcome one of the common problems of critical thinking in nursing — personal bias.

Common Critical Thinking Pitfalls in Nursing

Your brain uses a set of processes to make inferences about what’s happening around you. In some cases, your unreliable biases can lead you down the wrong path. McGowan places personal biases at the top of his list of common pitfalls to critical thinking in nursing.

“We all form biases based on our own experiences. However, nurses have to learn to separate their own biases from each patient encounter to avoid making false assumptions that may interfere with their care,” he says. Successful critical thinkers accept they have personal biases and learn to look out for them. Awareness of your biases is the first step to understanding if your personal bias is contributing to the wrong decision.

New nurses may be overwhelmed by the transition from academics to clinical practice, leading to a task-oriented mindset and a common new nurse mistake ; this conflicts with critical thinking skills.

“Consider a patient whose blood pressure is low but who also needs to take a blood pressure medication at a scheduled time. A task-oriented nurse may provide the medication without regard for the patient’s blood pressure because medication administration is a task that must be completed,” Slaughter says. “A nurse employing critical thinking skills would address the low blood pressure, review the patient’s blood pressure history and trends, and potentially call the physician to discuss whether medication should be withheld.”

Fear and pride may also stand in the way of developing critical thinking skills. Your belief system and worldview provide comfort and guidance, but this can impede your judgment when you are faced with an individual whose belief system or cultural practices are not the same as yours. Fear or pride may prevent you from pursuing a line of questioning that would benefit the patient. Nurses with strong critical thinking skills exhibit:

  • Learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of other nurses
  • Look forward to integrating changes that improve patient care
  • Treat each patient interaction as a part of a whole
  • Evaluate new events based on past knowledge and adjust decision-making as needed
  • Solve problems with their colleagues
  • Are self-confident
  • Acknowledge biases and seek to ensure these do not impact patient care

An Essential Skill for All Nurses

Critical thinking in nursing protects patient health and contributes to professional development and career advancement. Administrative and clinical nursing leaders are required to have strong critical thinking skills to be successful in their positions.

By using the strategies in this guide during your daily life and in your nursing role, you can intentionally improve your critical thinking abilities and be rewarded with better patient outcomes and potential career advancement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Critical Thinking in Nursing

How are critical thinking skills utilized in nursing practice.

Nursing practice utilizes critical thinking skills to provide the best care for patients. Often, the patient’s cause of pain or health issue is not immediately clear. Nursing professionals need to use their knowledge to determine what might be causing distress, collect vital information, and make quick decisions on how best to handle the situation.

How does nursing school develop critical thinking skills?

Nursing school gives students the knowledge professional nurses use to make important healthcare decisions for their patients. Students learn about diseases, anatomy, and physiology, and how to improve the patient’s overall well-being. Learners also participate in supervised clinical experiences, where they practice using their critical thinking skills to make decisions in professional settings.

Do only nurse managers use critical thinking?

Nurse managers certainly use critical thinking skills in their daily duties. But when working in a health setting, anyone giving care to patients uses their critical thinking skills. Everyone — including licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and advanced nurse practitioners —needs to flex their critical thinking skills to make potentially life-saving decisions.

Meet Our Contributors

Portrait of Crystal Slaughter, DNP, APRN, ACNS-BC, CNE

Crystal Slaughter, DNP, APRN, ACNS-BC, CNE

Crystal Slaughter is a core faculty member in Walden University’s RN-to-BSN program. She has worked as an advanced practice registered nurse with an intensivist/pulmonary service to provide care to hospitalized ICU patients and in inpatient palliative care. Slaughter’s clinical interests lie in nursing education and evidence-based practice initiatives to promote improving patient care.

Portrait of Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D., RN

Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D., RN

Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a nurse educator and freelance author and editor. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Rhoads earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students. Her clinical background includes surgical-trauma adult critical care, interventional radiology procedures, and conscious sedation in adult and pediatric populations.

Portrait of Nicholas McGowan, BSN, RN, CCRN

Nicholas McGowan, BSN, RN, CCRN

Nicholas McGowan is a critical care nurse with 10 years of experience in cardiovascular, surgical intensive care, and neurological trauma nursing. McGowan also has a background in education, leadership, and public speaking. He is an online learner who builds on his foundation of critical care nursing, which he uses directly at the bedside where he still practices. In addition, McGowan hosts an online course at Critical Care Academy where he helps nurses achieve critical care (CCRN) certification.

Critical Thinking in Nursing

  • First Online: 02 January 2023

Cite this chapter

critical thinking skills of nurses

  • Şefika Dilek Güven 3  

Part of the book series: Integrated Science ((IS,volume 12))

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Critical thinking is an integral part of nursing, especially in terms of professionalization and independent clinical decision-making. It is necessary to think critically to provide adequate, creative, and effective nursing care when making the right decisions for practices and care in the clinical setting and solving various ethical issues encountered. Nurses should develop their critical thinking skills so that they can analyze the problems of the current century, keep up with new developments and changes, cope with nursing problems they encounter, identify more complex patient care needs, provide more systematic care, give the most appropriate patient care in line with the education they have received, and make clinical decisions. The present chapter briefly examines critical thinking, how it relates to nursing, and which skills nurses need to develop as critical thinkers.

Graphical Abstract/Art Performance

critical thinking skills of nurses

Critical thinking in nursing.

This painting shows a nurse and how she is thinking critically. On the right side are the stages of critical thinking and on the left side, there are challenges that a nurse might face. The entire background is also painted in several colors to represent a kind of intellectual puzzle. It is made using colored pencils and markers.

(Adapted with permission from the Association of Science and Art (ASA), Universal Scientific Education and Research Network (USERN); Painting by Mahshad Naserpour).

Unless the individuals of a nation thinkers, the masses can be drawn in any direction. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

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Güven, Ş.D. (2023). Critical Thinking in Nursing. In: Rezaei, N. (eds) Brain, Decision Making and Mental Health. Integrated Science, vol 12. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-15959-6_10

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The characteristic that distinguishes a professional nurse is cognitive rather than psychomotor ability. Nursing practice demands that practitioners display sound judgement and decision-making skills as critical thinking and clinical decision making is an essential component of nursing practice. Nurses’ ability to recognize and respond to signs of patient deterioration in a timely manner plays a pivotal role in patient outcomes (Purling & King 2012). Errors in clinical judgement and decision making are said to account for more than half of adverse clinical events (Tomlinson, 2015). The focus of the nurse clinical judgement has to be on quality evidence based care delivery, therefore, observational and reasoning skills will result in sound, reliable, clinical judgements. Clinical judgement, a concept which is critical to the nursing can be complex, because the nurse is required to use observation skills, identify relevant information, to identify the relationships among given elements through reasoning and judgement. Clinical reasoning is the process by which nurses observe patients status, process the information, come to an understanding of the patient problem, plan and implement interventions, evaluate outcomes, with reflection and learning from the process (Levett-Jones et al, 2010). At all times, nurses are responsible for their actions and are accountable for nursing judgment and action or inaction.

The speed and ability by which the nurses make sound clinical judgement is affected by their experience. Novice nurses may find this process difficult, whereas the experienced nurse should rely on her intuition, followed by fast action. Therefore education must begin at the undergraduate level to develop students’ critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills. Clinical reasoning is a learnt skill requiring determination and active engagement in deliberate practice design to improve performance. In order to acquire such skills, students need to develop critical thinking ability, as well as an understanding of how judgements and decisions are reached in complex healthcare environments.

As lifelong learners, nurses are constantly accumulating more knowledge, expertise, and experience, and it’s a rare nurse indeed who chooses to not apply his or her mind towards the goal of constant learning and professional growth. Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the Future of Nursing, stated, that nurses must continue their education and engage in lifelong learning to gain the needed competencies for practice. American Nurses Association (ANA), Scope and Standards of Practice requires a nurse to remain involved in continuous learning and strengthening individual practice (p.26)

Alfaro-LeFevre, R. (2009). Critical thinking and clinical judgement: A practical approach to outcome-focused thinking. (4th ed.). St Louis: Elsevier

The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health, (2010). https://campaignforaction.org/resource/future-nursing-iom-report

Levett-Jones, T., Hoffman, K. Dempsey, Y. Jeong, S., Noble, D., Norton, C., Roche, J., & Hickey, N. (2010). The ‘five rights’ of clinical reasoning: an educational model to enhance nursing students’ ability to identify and manage clinically ‘at risk’ patients. Nurse Education Today. 30(6), 515-520.

NMC (2010) New Standards for Pre-Registration Nursing. London: Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Purling A. & King L. (2012). A literature review: graduate nurses’ preparedness for recognising and responding to the deteriorating patient. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 21(23–24), 3451–3465

Thompson, C., Aitken, l., Doran, D., Dowing, D. (2013). An agenda for clinical decision making and judgement in nursing research and education. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 50 (12), 1720 - 1726 Tomlinson, J. (2015). Using clinical supervision to improve the quality and safety of patient care: a response to Berwick and Francis. BMC Medical Education, 15(103)

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critical thinking skills of nurses


How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills In Nursing? 24 Strategies With Examples


Last updated on August 19th, 2023

Nurses play a critical role in making critical decisions that directly impact patient outcomes in the dynamic field of healthcare. Developing strong critical thinking skills is essential for success in this role.

In this article, we present a comprehensive list of 23 nursing-specific strategies aimed at improving critical thinking and improve the quality of patient care.

24 Strategies to improve critical thinking skills in nursing

You may also want to check out: 15 Attitudes of Critical Thinking in Nursing (Explained W/ Examples)

1. Reflective Journaling: Delving into Deeper Understanding

Reflective journaling is a potent tool for nurses to explore their experiences, actions, and decisions.

By regularly pondering over situations and analyzing their thought processes, nurses can identify strengths and areas for improvement.

This practice encourages the conscious development of critical thinking by comparing past experiences with current knowledge and exploring alternative solutions.

After a particularly challenging case, a nurse reflects on their decision-making process, exploring what worked well and what could have been done differently.

2. Meeting with Colleagues: Collaborative Learning for Critical Thinking

Regular interactions with colleagues foster a collaborative learning environment. Sharing experiences, discussing diverse viewpoints, and providing constructive feedback enhance critical thinking skills .

Colleagues’ insights can challenge assumptions and broaden perspectives, ultimately leading to more well-rounded clinical judgments.

A nursing team gathers to discuss a recent complex case, sharing their perspectives, insights, and lessons learned to collectively improve patient care strategies.

3. Concept Mapping: Visualizing Complexity

Concept mapping is an excellent technique to synthesize intricate patient information. By creating visual representations of patient problems and interventions, nurses can identify relationships and patterns that might not be apparent otherwise.

This strategy aids in comprehensive care planning and encourages nurses to think holistically about patient care.

Creating a concept map to connect patient symptoms, diagnostics, and interventions reveals patterns that help the nurse formulate a comprehensive care plan.

4. Socratic Questioning: Digging Deeper into Situations

The art of Socratic questioning involves asking probing questions that lead to deeper understanding.

Applying this technique allows nurses to uncover assumptions, examine inconsistencies, and explore multiple viewpoints.

This approach is especially valuable when reviewing patient history, discussing conditions, and planning care strategies.

When assessing a patient’s deteriorating condition, a nurse asks probing questions to uncover potential underlying causes and prioritize appropriate interventions.

5. Inductive and Deductive Reasoning: From Specifics to Generalizations

Developing skills in both inductive and deductive reasoning equips nurses to analyze situations from different angles.

Inductive reasoning involves drawing conclusions from specific observations, while deductive reasoning starts with general premises to arrive at specific conclusions.

Proficient use of these methods enhances nurses’ ability to make accurate clinical judgments.

When encountering a series of patients with similar symptoms, a nurse uses inductive reasoning to identify a common pattern and deduce potential causes.

6. Distinguishing Statements: Fact, Inference, Judgment, and Opinion

Clear thinking demands the ability to differentiate between statements of fact, inference, judgment, and opinion.

Nurses must critically evaluate information sources, ensuring they rely on evidence-based practice.

This skill safeguards against misinformation and supports informed decision-making.

While reviewing a patient’s history, a nurse differentiates factual medical information from inferences and subjective judgments made by different healthcare professionals.

7. Clarifying Assumptions: Promoting Effective Communication

Recognizing assumptions and clarifying their underlying principles is vital for effective communication. Nurses often hold differing assumptions, which can impact patient care.

By acknowledging these assumptions and encouraging open discussions, nursing teams can collaboratively create care plans that align with patients’ best interests.

Before suggesting a treatment plan, a nurse engages in a conversation with a patient to understand their cultural beliefs and preferences, ensuring assumptions are not made.

8. Clinical Simulations: Learning through Virtual Scenarios

Clinical simulations provide nurses with a risk-free environment to practice decision-making and problem-solving skills.

These virtual scenarios mimic real-life patient situations and allow nurses to test different approaches, assess outcomes, and reflect on their choices.

By engaging in simulations, nurses can refine their critical thinking abilities, learn from mistakes, and gain confidence in their clinical judgment.

Engaging in a simulated scenario where a patient’s condition rapidly changes challenges a nurse’s decision-making skills in a controlled environment.

9. Case Studies and Grand Rounds: Analyzing Complex Cases

Engaging in case studies and participating in grand rounds exposes nurses to complex patient cases that require in-depth analysis.

Working through these scenarios encourages nurses to consider various factors, potential interventions, and their rationale.

Discussing these cases with colleagues and experts fosters collaborative critical thinking and widens the spectrum of possible solutions.

Nurses participate in grand rounds, discussing a challenging case involving multiple medical specialties, encouraging a holistic approach to patient care.

10. Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning: Expanding Knowledge

Staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in nursing and healthcare is crucial for effective critical thinking.

Pursuing continuing education opportunities, attending conferences, and engaging in self-directed learning keeps nurses informed about new research, technologies, and best practices.

This continuous learning enriches their knowledge base, enabling them to approach patient care with a well-rounded perspective.

Attending a nursing conference on the latest advancements in wound care equips a nurse with evidence-based techniques to improve patient outcomes.

11. Debates and Discussions: Encouraging Thoughtful Dialogue

Organizing debates or participating in structured discussions on healthcare topics stimulates critical thinking.

Engaging in debates requires researching and presenting evidence-based arguments, promoting the evaluation of different perspectives.

Nurses can exchange insights, challenge assumptions, and refine their ability to defend their viewpoints logically.

Engaging in a debate on the pros and cons of a new treatment method encourages nurses to critically analyze different viewpoints and strengthen their own understanding.

12. Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Gaining Insights from Various Disciplines

Collaborating with professionals from diverse healthcare disciplines enriches nurses’ critical thinking.

Interacting with doctors, pharmacists, therapists, and other experts allows nurses to benefit from different viewpoints and approaches.

This cross-disciplinary collaboration broadens their understanding and encourages innovative problem-solving.

Collaborating with physical therapists, nutritionists, and pharmacists helps a nurse develop a holistic care plan that addresses all aspects of a patient’s recovery.

13. Ethical Dilemma Analysis: Balancing Patient Autonomy and Best Practice

Ethical dilemmas are common in nursing practice. Analyzing these situations requires nurses to weigh the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice.

By critically examining ethical scenarios, nurses develop the capacity to navigate morally complex situations, prioritize patient welfare, and make ethically sound decisions.

When faced with a patient’s refusal of treatment due to religious beliefs, a nurse evaluates the ethical considerations, respects autonomy, and seeks alternatives.

14. Root Cause Analysis: Investigating Adverse Events

When adverse events occur, performing a root cause analysis helps identify the underlying causes and contributing factors.

Nurses engage in a systematic process of analyzing events, exploring the “5 Whys” technique , and developing strategies to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

This approach cultivates a thorough and analytical approach to problem-solving.

After a medication error, a nurse leads a root cause analysis to identify system failures and implement preventive measures to enhance patient safety.

15. Creative Thinking Exercises: Expanding Solution Repertoire

Encouraging creative thinking through brainstorming sessions or scenario-based exercises widens the range of possible solutions nurses consider.

By thinking outside the box and exploring innovative approaches, nurses develop adaptable problem-solving skills that can be applied to complex patient care challenges.

Brainstorming creative approaches to comfort a distressed pediatric patient empowers a nurse to find innovative methods beyond routine interventions.

16. Journal Clubs: Fostering Evidence-Based Discussion

Participating in journal clubs involves healthcare professionals coming together to dissect recent research articles.

This practice ignites critical thinking by allowing nurses to evaluate study methodologies, scrutinize findings, and consider the implications for their practice.

Engaging in evidence-based discussions not only cultivates a culture of critical inquiry but also reinforces continuous learning.

At the monthly journal club meeting, Nurse Mark engages in a discussion on a recent research article focusing on pain management strategies for post-operative patients.

The group analyzes the study design, scrutinizes the findings, and considers the potential implications for their practice.

During the discussion, Mark raises thought-provoking questions about the study’s methodology and suggests potential applications in their hospital’s patient care protocols.

This active participation in journal clubs not only refines Mark’s critical thinking but also instills evidence-based practices into his nursing approach.

17. Critical Reflection Groups: Collaborative Learning and Analysis

Similarly, establishing critical reflection groups, where nurses meet regularly to discuss experiences, cases, and challenges, fosters collective learning.

These sessions encourage the exchange of diverse perspectives, enriching the analysis process and ultimately enhancing patient care strategies.

Through shared insights and discussions, nurses can refine their clinical reasoning and broaden their problem-solving capabilities.

Nurse Emma actively participates in critical reflection groups in order to broaden her clinical knowledge. During a recent meeting, the group tackled a difficult patient case with complicated symptomatology.

Emma suggests alternative diagnostic pathways based on her own experiences. Emma’s critical thinking skills are honed as a result of the group’s dynamic interaction, which also emphasizes the importance of collaborative decision-making in complex scenarios.

18. Mindfulness and Reflection Practices: Enhancing Self-Awareness

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, encourage self-awareness and a clear mind.

Engaging in these practices helps nurses become more attuned to their thoughts and emotions, leading to better self-regulation and improved decision-making during high-pressure situations.

Engaging in mindfulness exercises before a demanding shift helps a nurse maintain focus, manage stress, and make clear-headed decisions.

19. Problem-Based Learning: Applying Knowledge in Real Scenarios

Problem-based learning involves presenting nurses with real-world patient cases and encouraging them to collaboratively solve the problems.

This approach bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, fostering critical thinking through active problem-solving.

Working through a simulated patient case challenges nurses to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations, refining their clinical reasoning.

20. Self-Assessment and Feedback: Evaluating Decision-Making Skills

Regularly assessing one’s own decision-making process and seeking feedback from peers and mentors is essential for improvement.

Reflecting on past decisions, considering alternative approaches, and understanding the rationale behind them contribute to the refinement of critical thinking skills.

A nurse evaluates their performance after a patient’s unexpected complication, seeking feedback from peers and mentors to identify areas for improvement.

21. Cultural Competence Training: Navigating Diverse Perspectives

Cultural competence training enhances critical thinking by enabling nurses to understand the diverse cultural beliefs and practices of patients.

This knowledge is vital for providing patient-centered care, as it encourages nurses to think critically about the unique needs of each individual.

A nurse attends cultural competence training to understand the dietary preferences of a diverse patient population, ensuring respectful and patient-centered care.

22. Active Listening and Empathetic Communication: Gathering Insights

Active listening and empathetic communication with patients and their families enable nurses to gather comprehensive information about their conditions, concerns, and preferences.

This data forms the basis for critical analysis and informed decision-making in patient care.

Through attentive listening, a nurse uncovers a patient’s underlying concerns, leading to an informed care plan that addresses both medical needs and emotional well-being.

23. Mentorship and Preceptorship: Learning from Experienced Professionals

Having a mentor or preceptor provides novice nurses with the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals.

Mentors guide critical thinking by sharing their insights, challenging assumptions, and offering guidance in complex situations. This relationship fosters growth and expertise development.

A novice nurse gains valuable insight from a mentor, who guides them through complex cases, offering real-world wisdom and refining critical thinking skills.

24. Self-Assessment and Feedback: Evaluating Decision-Making Skills

Reflecting on past decisions, considering alternative approaches, and understanding the rationale behind them contribute to the refinement of critical thinking skills .

Nurse Sarah regularly takes time to assess her decision-making skills by reviewing past patient cases. After a challenging case involving conflicting symptoms, she reflects on her initial approach, the outcomes, and what she could have done differently.

She seeks feedback from her senior colleague, who provides insights on alternative diagnostic paths. Sarah’s self-assessment and feedback-seeking process enable her to identify areas for improvement and refine her critical thinking in similar situations.

  • Clinical Reasoning In Nursing (Explained W/ Example)
  • 8 Stages Of The Clinical Reasoning Cycle
  • What is Critical Thinking in Nursing? (Explained W/ Examples)

Enhancing critical thinking skills is an ongoing journey that transforms nursing practice.

Reflective journaling, collaborative learning, concept mapping, Socratic questioning , reasoning techniques, distinguishing statements, and clarifying assumptions all play integral roles in nurturing these skills.

By incorporating these strategies into their daily routines, nurses can improve their critical thinking skills.

Additionally, this will help nurses in navigating the complexities of the healthcare field with confidence, expertise, and the ability to make well-informed decisions that improve patient outcomes.

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How to Apply Critical Thinking in Nursing

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Harnessing the power of critical thinking can be the key to becoming a successful and competent nurse. 

Developing and refining your critical thinking skills is crucial as you embark on your nursing journey. By doing so, you’ll enhance your ability to provide high-quality care, advance your professional growth, and contribute to the ever-evolving nursing field.

What is critical thinking in nursing?

Critical thinking is an essential cognitive process that enables nurses to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to make informed decisions. In the context of nursing, it involves observing, interpreting, and responding to patient needs effectively. 

Critical thinking allows nurses to go beyond memorized facts and apply logical reasoning to address patient problems holistically.

As a nurse, you’ll encounter multifaceted healthcare scenarios, each presenting its unique challenges. Critical thinking enables you to approach these situations systematically, evaluate the available data, identify relevant factors, and understand the patient’s condition comprehensively.

By employing critical thinking skills, you can differentiate between urgent and non-urgent issues, prioritize care, anticipate potential complications, and adapt your interventions accordingly. This analytical approach helps minimize errors, promote patient safety, and achieve positive patient outcomes.

Why is critical thinking important in nursing?

Critical thinking serves as the backbone of nursing practice. You’ll encounter various uncertainties, changing conditions, and ethical dilemmas as a nurse. Developing critical thinking abilities empowers you to navigate these challenges confidently and provide optimal patient care.

In nursing, critical thinking is crucial for the following reasons:

  • Enhanced Clinical Judgment: Critical thinking enables assessing complex situations, analyzing available information, and drawing logical conclusions. It enhances your clinical judgment, allowing you to make informed decisions based on the best available evidence and expert consensus.
  • Effective Problem Solving: Nursing involves encountering problems and finding effective solutions. Critical thinking equips you with the tools to identify underlying issues, explore alternative options, and implement interventions that address the root cause of the problem.
  • Patient Advocacy: Critical thinking empowers you to advocate for your patients’ needs. By actively engaging in critical inquiry, you can challenge assumptions, question policies, and promote patient-centered care.
  • Adapting to Changing Environments: Healthcare is constantly evolving, with new research findings, technologies, and treatments emerging regularly. Developing critical thinking skills helps you adapt to these changes, ensuring you stay updated and deliver evidence-based care.

Examples of Critical Thinking in Nursing

Let’s dive into some real-life examples that highlight how critical thinking plays a crucial role in nursing practice:

  • Prioritization: Imagine working in an emergency department where multiple patients arrive simultaneously with varying degrees of severity. Utilizing critical thinking, you can assess each patient’s condition, prioritize care based on the urgency of their needs, and allocate resources effectively.
  • Medication Administration: When administering medication, critical thinking prompts you to cross-check the prescribed dose, assess potential drug interactions or allergies, and evaluate the patient’s response to the medication. This proactive approach ensures patient safety and minimizes medication errors.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Critical thinking helps you navigate complex ethical dilemmas by analyzing the values at stake, considering legal and ethical principles, and collaborating with the healthcare team to make decisions that align with the patient’s best interests.

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Q&A: What is critical thinking and when would you use critical thinking in the clinical setting?

(Write 2-3 paragraphs)

In literature ‘critical thinking’ is often used, and perhaps confused, with problem-solving and clinical decision-making skills and clinical reasoning. In practice, problem-solving tends to focus on the identification and resolution of a problem, whilst critical thinking goes beyond this to incorporate asking skilled questions and critiquing solutions.

Critical thinking has been defined in many ways, but is essentially the process of deliberate, systematic and logical thinking, while considering bias or assumptions that may affect your thinking or assessment of a situation. In healthcare, the clinical setting whether acute care sector or aged care critical thinking has generally been defined as reasoned, reflective thinking which can evaluate the given evidence and its significance to the patient’s situation. Critical thinking occasionally involves suspension of one’s immediate judgment to adequately evaluate and appraise a situation, including questioning whether the current practice is evidence-based. Skills such as interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation are required to interpret thinking and the situation. A lack of critical thinking may manifest as a failure to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions.

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Paul-Elder framework has three components:

  • The elements of thought (reasoning)
  • The intellectual standards that should be applied to the elements of reasoning
  • The intellectual traits associated with a cultivated critical thinker that result from the consistent and disciplined application of the intellectual standards to the elements of thought.

Critical thinking can be defined as, “the art of analysing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it”. The eight Parts or Elements of Thinking involved in critical thinking:

  • All reasoning has a purpose (goals, objectives).
  • All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some question, to solve some problem .
  • All reasoning is based on assumptions (line of reasoning, information taken for granted).
  • All reasoning is done from some point of view.
  • All reasoning is based on data, information and evidence .
  • All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, concepts and ideas .
  • All reasoning contains inferences or interpretations by which we draw conclusions and give meaning to data.
  • All reasoning leads somewhere or has implications and consequence.

Q&A: To become a nurse requires that you learn to think like a nurse. What makes the thinking of a nurse different from a doctor, a dentist or an engineer?

It is how we view the health care consumer or aged care consumer, and the type of problems nurses deal with in clinical practice when we engage in health care patient centred care. To think like a nurse requires that we learn the content of nursing; the ideas, concepts, ethics and theories of nursing and develop our intellectual capacities and skills so that we become disciplined, self-directed, critical thinkers.

As a nurse you are required to think about the entire patient/s and what you have learnt as a nurse including; ideas, theories, and concepts in nursing. It is important that we develop our skills so that we become highly proficient critical thinkers in nursing.

In nursing, critical thinkers need to be:

Nurses need to use language that will clearly communicate a lot of information that is key to good nursing care, for handover and escalation of care for improving patient safety and reducing adverse outcomes, some organisations use the iSoBAR (identify–situation–observations–background–agreed plan–read back) format. Firstly, the “i”, for “identify yourself and the patient”, placed the patient’s identity, rather than the diagnosis, in primary position and provided a method of introduction. (This is particularly important when teams are widely spread geographically.) The prompt, “S” (“situation”) “o” for “observations”, was included to provide an adequate baseline of factual information on which to devise a plan of care. and “B” (“background”), “A” “agreed plan” and “R” “read back” to reinforce the transfer of information and accountability.

In clinical practice experienced nurses engage in multiple clinical reasoning episodes for each patient in their care. An experienced nurse may enter a patient’s room and immediately observe significant data, draw conclusions about the patient and initiate appropriate care. Because of their knowledge, skill and experience the expert nurse may appear to perform these processes in a way that seems automatic or instinctive. However, clinical reasoning is a learnt skill.

Key critical thinking skills – the clinical reasoning cycle / critical thinking process

To support nursing students in the clinical setting, breakdown the critical thinking process into phases;

  • Decide/identify

This is a dynamic process and nurses often combine one or more of the phases, move back and forth between them before reaching a decision, reaching outcomes and then evaluating outcomes.

For nursing students to learn to manage complex clinical scenarios effectively, it is essential to understand the process and steps of clinical reasoning. Nursing students need to learn rules that determine how cues shape clinical decisions and the connections between cues and outcomes.

Start with the Patient – what is the issue? Holistic approach – describe or list the facts, people.

Collect information – Handover report, medical and nursing, allied health notes. Results, patient history and medications.

  • New information – patient assessment

Process Information – Interpret- data, signs and symptoms, normal and abnormal.

  • Analyse – relevant from non-relevant information, narrow down the information
  • Evaluate – deductions or form opinions and outcomes

Identify Problems – Analyse the facts and interferences to make a definitive diagnosis of the patients’ problem.

Establish Goals – Describe what you want to happen, desired outcomes and timeframe.

Take action – Select a course of action between alternatives available.

Evaluate Outcomes – The effectiveness of the actions and outcomes. Has the situation changed or improved?

Reflect on process and new learning – What have you learnt and what would you do differently next time.

Scenario: Apply the clinical reasoning cycle, see below, to a scenario that occurred with a patient in your clinical practice setting. This could be the doctor’s orders, the patient’s vital signs or a change in the patient’s condition.

(Write 3-5 paragraphs)

Clinical reasoning cycle - Critical Thinking - Thought Leadership

Important skills for critical thinking

Some skills are more important than others when it comes to critical thinking. The skills that are most important are:

  • Interpreting – Understanding and explaining the meaning of information, or a particular event.
  • Analysing – Investigating a course of action, that is based upon data that is objective and subjective.
  • Evaluating – This is how you assess the value of the information that you have. Is the information relevant, reliable and credible?

This skill is also needed to determine if outcomes have been fully reached.

Based upon those three skills, you can use clinical reasoning to determine what the problem is.

These decisions have to be based upon sound reasoning:

  • Explaining – Clearly and concisely explaining your conclusions. The nurse needs to be able to give a sound rationale for their answers.
  • Self-regulating – You have to monitor your own thought processes. This means that you must reflect on the process that lead to the conclusion. Be on alert for bias and improper assumptions.

Critical thinking pitfalls

Errors that occur in critical thinking in nursing can cause incorrect conclusions. This is particularly dangerous in nursing because an incorrect conclusion can lead to incorrect clinical actions.

Illogical Processes

A common illogical thought process is known as “appeal to tradition”. This is what people are doing when they say it’s always been done like this. Creative, new approaches are not tried because of tradition.

All people have biases. Critical thinkers are able to look at their biases and not let them compromise their thinking processes.

Biases can complicate decision making, communication and ultimately effect patient care.

Closed Minded

Being closed-minded in nursing is dangerous because it ignores other team members points of view. Essential input from other experts, as well as patients and their families are also ignored which ultimately impacts on patient care. This means that fewer clinical options are explored, and fewer innovative ideas are used for critical thinking to guide decision making.

So, no matter if you are an intensive care nurse, community health nurse or a nurse practitioner, you should always keep in mind the importance of critical thinking in the nursing clinical setting.

It is essential for nurses to develop this skill: not only to have knowledge but to be able to apply knowledge in anticipation of patients’ needs using evidence-based care guidelines.

American Management Association (2012). ‘AMA 2012 Critical Skills Survey: Executive Summary’. (2012). American Management Association. http://playbook.amanet.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2012-Critical-Skills-Survey-pdf.pdf   Accessed 5 May 2020.

Korn, M. (2014). ‘Bosses Seek ‘Critical Thinking,’ but What Is That?,’ The Wall Street Journal . https://www.wsj.com/articles/bosses-seek-critical-thinking-but-what-is-that-1413923730?tesla=y&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12483389912594473586204580228373641221834.html#livefyre-comment Accessed 5 May 2020.

School of Nursing and Midwifery Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle. (2009). Clinical reasoning. Instructors resources. https://www.newcastle.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/86536/Clinical-Reasoning-Instructor-Resources.pdf  Accessed 11 May 2020

The Value of Critical Thinking in Nursing + Examples. Nurse Journal social community for nurses worldwide. 2020.  https://nursejournal.org/community/the-value-of-critical-thinking-in-nursing/ Accessed 8 May 2020.

Paul And Elder (2009) Have Defined Critical Thinking As: The Art of Analysing And Evaluating …

https://www.chegg.com/homework-help/questions-and-answers/paul-elder-2009-defined-critical-thinking-art-analyzing-evaluating-thinking-view-improving-q23582096 Accessed 8 May 2020 .

Cody, W.K. (2002). Critical thinking and nursing science: judgment, or vision? Nursing Science Quarterly, 15(3), 184-189.

Facione, P. (2011). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts. Insight Assessment , ISBN 13: 978-1-891557-07-1.

McGrath, J. (2005). Critical thinking and evidence- based practice. Journal of Professional Nursing, 21(6), 364-371.

Porteous, J., Stewart-Wynne, G., Connolly, M. and Crommelin, P. (2009). iSoBAR — a concept and handover checklist: the National Clinical Handover Initiative. Med J Aust 2009; 190 (11): S152.

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critical thinking skills of nurses

Critical thinking definition

critical thinking skills of nurses

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

  • Developing technical and problem-solving skills
  • Engaging in more active listening
  • Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
  • Seeking out more diversity of thought
  • Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

  • What information should be included?
  • Which information resources should the author look to?
  • What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
  • What is the most effective way to show information?
  • How should the report be organized?
  • How should it be designed?
  • What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

Are there any services that can help me use more critical thinking?

We understand that it's difficult to learn how to use critical thinking more effectively in just one article, but our service is here to help.

We are a team specializing in writing essays and other assignments for college students and all other types of customers who need a helping hand in its making. We cover a great range of topics, offer perfect quality work, always deliver on time and aim to leave our customers completely satisfied with what they ordered.

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Critical Thinking: A Simple Guide and Why It’s Important

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Critical Thinking: A Simple Guide and Why It’s Important was originally published on Ivy Exec .

Strong critical thinking skills are crucial for career success, regardless of educational background. It embodies the ability to engage in astute and effective decision-making, lending invaluable dimensions to professional growth.

At its essence, critical thinking is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information in a logical and reasoned manner. It’s not merely about accumulating knowledge but harnessing it effectively to make informed decisions and solve complex problems. In the dynamic landscape of modern careers, honing this skill is paramount.

The Impact of Critical Thinking on Your Career

☑ problem-solving mastery.

Visualize critical thinking as the Sherlock Holmes of your career journey. It facilitates swift problem resolution akin to a detective unraveling a mystery. By methodically analyzing situations and deconstructing complexities, critical thinkers emerge as adept problem solvers, rendering them invaluable assets in the workplace.

☑ Refined Decision-Making

Navigating dilemmas in your career path resembles traversing uncertain terrain. Critical thinking acts as a dependable GPS, steering you toward informed decisions. It involves weighing options, evaluating potential outcomes, and confidently choosing the most favorable path forward.

☑ Enhanced Teamwork Dynamics

Within collaborative settings, critical thinkers stand out as proactive contributors. They engage in scrutinizing ideas, proposing enhancements, and fostering meaningful contributions. Consequently, the team evolves into a dynamic hub of ideas, with the critical thinker recognized as the architect behind its success.

☑ Communication Prowess

Effective communication is the cornerstone of professional interactions. Critical thinking enriches communication skills, enabling the clear and logical articulation of ideas. Whether in emails, presentations, or casual conversations, individuals adept in critical thinking exude clarity, earning appreciation for their ability to convey thoughts seamlessly.

☑ Adaptability and Resilience

Perceptive individuals adept in critical thinking display resilience in the face of unforeseen challenges. Instead of succumbing to panic, they assess situations, recalibrate their approaches, and persist in moving forward despite adversity.

☑ Fostering Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of progressive organizations, and critical thinking serves as its catalyst. Proficient critical thinkers possess the ability to identify overlooked opportunities, propose inventive solutions, and streamline processes, thereby positioning their organizations at the forefront of innovation.

☑ Confidence Amplification

Critical thinkers exude confidence derived from honing their analytical skills. This self-assurance radiates during job interviews, presentations, and daily interactions, catching the attention of superiors and propelling career advancement.

So, how can one cultivate and harness this invaluable skill?

✅ developing curiosity and inquisitiveness:.

Embrace a curious mindset by questioning the status quo and exploring topics beyond your immediate scope. Cultivate an inquisitive approach to everyday situations. Encourage a habit of asking “why” and “how” to deepen understanding. Curiosity fuels the desire to seek information and alternative perspectives.

✅ Practice Reflection and Self-Awareness:

Engage in reflective thinking by assessing your thoughts, actions, and decisions. Regularly introspect to understand your biases, assumptions, and cognitive processes. Cultivate self-awareness to recognize personal prejudices or cognitive biases that might influence your thinking. This allows for a more objective analysis of situations.

✅ Strengthening Analytical Skills:

Practice breaking down complex problems into manageable components. Analyze each part systematically to understand the whole picture. Develop skills in data analysis, statistics, and logical reasoning. This includes understanding correlation versus causation, interpreting graphs, and evaluating statistical significance.

✅ Engaging in Active Listening and Observation:

Actively listen to diverse viewpoints without immediately forming judgments. Allow others to express their ideas fully before responding. Observe situations attentively, noticing details that others might overlook. This habit enhances your ability to analyze problems more comprehensively.

✅ Encouraging Intellectual Humility and Open-Mindedness:

Foster intellectual humility by acknowledging that you don’t know everything. Be open to learning from others, regardless of their position or expertise. Cultivate open-mindedness by actively seeking out perspectives different from your own. Engage in discussions with people holding diverse opinions to broaden your understanding.

✅ Practicing Problem-Solving and Decision-Making:

Engage in regular problem-solving exercises that challenge you to think creatively and analytically. This can include puzzles, riddles, or real-world scenarios. When making decisions, consciously evaluate available information, consider various alternatives, and anticipate potential outcomes before reaching a conclusion.

✅ Continuous Learning and Exposure to Varied Content:

Read extensively across diverse subjects and formats, exposing yourself to different viewpoints, cultures, and ways of thinking. Engage in courses, workshops, or seminars that stimulate critical thinking skills. Seek out opportunities for learning that challenge your existing beliefs.

✅ Engage in Constructive Disagreement and Debate:

Encourage healthy debates and discussions where differing opinions are respectfully debated.

This practice fosters the ability to defend your viewpoints logically while also being open to changing your perspective based on valid arguments. Embrace disagreement as an opportunity to learn rather than a conflict to win. Engaging in constructive debate sharpens your ability to evaluate and counter-arguments effectively.

✅ Utilize Problem-Based Learning and Real-World Applications:

Engage in problem-based learning activities that simulate real-world challenges. Work on projects or scenarios that require critical thinking skills to develop practical problem-solving approaches. Apply critical thinking in real-life situations whenever possible.

This could involve analyzing news articles, evaluating product reviews, or dissecting marketing strategies to understand their underlying rationale.

In conclusion, critical thinking is the linchpin of a successful career journey. It empowers individuals to navigate complexities, make informed decisions, and innovate in their respective domains. Embracing and honing this skill isn’t just an advantage; it’s a necessity in a world where adaptability and sound judgment reign supreme.

So, as you traverse your career path, remember that the ability to think critically is not just an asset but the differentiator that propels you toward excellence.

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Capturing New Nurses' Experiences and Supporting Critical Thinking

This study analyzed the contents of critical reflective journals written by new nurses during their orientations using a text network. This study aimed to find ways to reduce turnover and improve clinical field adaptability among new nurses. The authors analyzed the content of reflective journals written by 143 new nurses from March 2020 to January 2021. Text network analysis was performed using the NetMiner 4.4.3 program. After data preprocessing, frequency of occurrence, degree centrality, closeness centrality, betweenness centrality, and eigenvector community were analyzed. In total, 453 words were extracted and refined, and words with high simple frequency and centrality were “incompetence,” “preparation,” “explanation,” “injection,” “time,” “examination,” and “first try.” “Medication” had the highest frequency of occurrence, and “incompetence” was the most important keyword in the centrality analysis. In addition, component analysis and eigenvector community analysis revealed three sub-theme groups: (1) basic nursing skills required for new nurses, (2) insufficient competency, and (3) explanation of nursing work. Significantly, this study is the first to use the text network method to analyze the subjective experiences of the critical reflective journals of new nurses. In conclusion, changes are needed to improve the education system for new nurses and promote efficient sharing of nursing tasks.

“New nurses” are nurses who work in hospitals within their first year of acquiring a nursing license. New nurses experience several challenges while adapting to the clinical environment because they often identify patient problems and make high-quality clinical decisions in rapidly changing clinical settings. Critical thinking ability is essential to overcoming difficulties in meeting these demands. 1 In particular, critical thinking ability positively affects clinical decisions through communication and may help new nurses adapt to their working environment. 2 However, new nurses tend to have lower critical thinking abilities than tenured nurses and require time to develop clinical competencies. 3 Because inadequate critical thinking skills may make it difficult for new nurses to provide optimal nursing care and thus may negatively affect patient safety, 3 new nurses must develop strong critical thinking skills.

Furthermore, critical thinking is a reflective thinking process that enables one to decide what to believe and what to do, 4 and reflection is essential to enhance critical thinking ability. 5 Reflective journaling is an approach to internalizing learned knowledge through reflective thinking and objectifying activities, 6 which in turn may strengthen critical thinking and clinical decision-making abilities. 3 Reflective thinking connects new knowledge with existing knowledge, enables abstract thinking, and enables individuals to use specific solution-oriented strategies based on their knowledge and experiences in response to new problems. 7 In the context of nursing education, reflective journaling crucially allows learners to observe their emotional and psychological states. 8 For new nurses, the process of transitioning from being a nursing student to working as a nurse may be confusing and difficult, and reflective journaling during this period may improve clinical decision-making skills, relieve the challenges associated with the transition process, and promote communication with preceptors and nursing managers. 9 , 10

Reflective journaling is a clinically viable educational method for the self-analysis of clinical decision making in residency programs for new nurses. 11 In particular, reflective journaling is a useful educational method for strengthening clinical adaptation capacity in new nurses. 8 – 10 Analyzing the content of these journals can reveal how best to shape pedagogy to strengthen the competencies of new nurses.

Many studies have been conducted to help new nurses adapt and decrease their turnover. These studies include research on the factors affecting the retention intention and turnover of new nurses, 12 , 13 qualitative research on the practical adaptation experience of new nurses, and literature reviews on new nurse education programs. 14 , 15 However, no study has yet analyzed the reflective journals written by new nurses; therefore, it is necessary to review these journals, which offer insights into the actual experiences of new nurses. Other disciplines, such as pedagogy, have applied text network analysis (TNA) for more objective document research by linking content analysis and social network analysis. 16 The TNA method is an analysis technique that interprets a phenomenon using a network that displays the relationships between the words appearing in the text as “links.” Notably, TNA is a useful analysis method to identify the relationship between core keywords and other keywords. 17 In addition, this method can enhance knowledge of related phenomena through quantitatively examining the words appearing in text and identifying words that co-occur with other specific words. 18 Recently, in the field of nursing, studies have used network analyses to uncover research trends and knowledge structures, 19 , 20 including by analyzing the contents of the practices of nursing students. 21

In response to the gap in the literature, the authors sought to uncover the clinical experiences of new nurses during the orientation period by analyzing their critical reflective journals using the TNA method. In particular, the authors examined the relationships between keywords and main words and experiences. This study's specific objectives were as follows:

  • To extract keywords based on their frequency and identify core keywords.
  • To identify core topic and sub-theme groups.

Research Design

In this quantitative content analysis study, the authors applied the TNA method to identify the core keywords from new nurses' critical reflective journals on their clinical experiences during their orientation period.

Research Sample and Data Collection

The authors analyzed the critical reflective journals written by 143 new nurses who joined a university hospital located in an urban area of Korea from March 2020 to January 2021. The nurses recorded their experiences in the critical reflective journals six times during the orientation period (8 weeks). The nurses were instructed to record, in the form of narration, the most memorable aspects of their nursing interactions with patients and list their performance strengths and shortcomings in each situation. The journal structure was configured to assist them in establishing and writing goals, as well as with developing plans to improve their shortcomings. The researcher obtained the nurses' consent to participate in the study after detailing the purpose and method of writing critical reflective journals for 30 minutes during the common orientation period. New nurses were introduced to critical thinking as a very important and necessary process for improving clinical judgment. In addition, clinical nurse educators prompted new nurses to reflect on the situations they experienced in the field when writing in their journals; in particular, they asked the nurses to contextualize these situations and consider alternative ways they may have solved problems they encountered in the field. The researchers explained to the new nurses that the journals would only be used to analyze basic data to uncover how best to help new nurses adapt to the field. Next, new nurses who voluntarily agreed to participate were provided with a journal before being assigned to a department. Research participants were notified they could withdraw from the study at any time, and they were asked to contact the clinical nurse educators with any difficulties or questions related to journaling. After orientation, the nursing education team collected the journals.

Data Analysis

In the analysis of the collected data, the main semantic structure was visualized as a sociogram through preprocessing and network analysis. Analysis was performed using NetMiner 4.4.3 (Cyram Co. Ltd., Gyeonggi-do, Korea).

Preprocessing Stages

The journals were transcribed to Microsoft Office Excel (Microsoft Inc., Redmond, WA, USA) and converted into databases. Four researchers divided the reflective journals, copied them, and then went through the process of reconfirming each other's work. The data were extracted from long texts and included only nouns identified using the morpheme analysis function of NetMiner 4.4.3. Using the NetMiner's “import unstructured text” menu, the database data were read and morphemes were extracted. A thesaurus was created to unify words with similar meanings. While examining the extracted morphemes, meaningful morphemes were extracted using the thesaurus, defined words, and excluded words, and word purification was performed using the extraction results.

The thesaurus grouped words (phrases) with similar meanings, and the researcher designated the representative words for each group. 22 In Korean alphabet (Hangeul), words with the same meaning are often presented differently, 23 so the authors paid attention to the selection of representative words and their registration in the thesaurus. For example, “alcohol cotton” was made to represent “alcohol swab,” “disinfection cotton,” “cotton,” and “alcohol.” Phrases consisting of two or more words were also added to the dictionary to establish that the multiple words comprising the phrase should be read as a unit. 24 For example, the words “intravenous” and “injection” were registered within the dictionary as comprising “intravenous injection.” The dictionary of excluded words went through a refining process to exclude stop words, such as pronouns and adverbs without important meanings. The process of word refinement involved several rounds of consultation between joint researchers to reduce subjective bias. In addition, “frequency of appearance” refers to the number of times a keyword appears in an entire document. In order to exclude commonly used words that appear frequently in all documents, words with a term frequency–inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) value of 0.5 or less were excluded by referring to previous studies. 25 The frequency of words appearing in one document is called “term frequency,” and the number of documents in which a word appears is called “document frequency.” “Inverse document frequency” is the logarithmic expression of the inverse of document frequency. A high term frequency value may be recognized as a keyword due to a high frequency in one document, but if the term frequency value is equally high in other documents, it is considered a commonly used word in several documents, even if it may not be necessarily a keyword. Therefore, it should be excluded when extracting keywords by calculating inverse document frequency values of words. For this purpose, TF-IDF, which represents the importance of any word in a particular document, is obtained by multiplying term frequency and inverse document frequency, and used for word extraction. The larger the TF-IDF value, the higher the importance of any word in the document. 26 In this study, five words with a TF-IDF value of 0.5 or less (eg, “teacher,” “patient,” “work,” “think,” and “confirm”) were included in the dictionary of excluded words.

Finally, 274 thesaurus, 301 defined words, and 1759 excluded words were registered in the user dictionary. As a result, a total of 453 words were extracted in the critical reflective journals written by the new nurses. In this study, the top 30 keywords' frequency of appearance was analyzed based on refined words to extract keywords. To intuitively represent keywords, frequency of appearance was generated by using NetMiner 4.4.3.

Process of Network Formation

The network formation process generated a keyword co-occurrence matrix to reflect that the two keywords appeared next to each other in one sentence or were located among the other keywords. 27 Repeated co-occurrence can be interpreted as forming a semantic structure between the words. The higher the degree of connection, the more co-occurrence exists across different types of keywords, which yields a semantic structure in various contexts. In the one-mode matrix of the “keyword × keyword” relationship, the degree value was 1 to 48, 70.4% (1649) for less than 1 and 85.4% (1999) for less than 2.

To grasp the main phenomenon in network analysis, only keywords with an appropriate level of connection are included, but the reference value for the connection degree is not presented, 28 and the study result is determined considering ease of interpretation and network visualization. 27 In this study, a one-mode matrix composed of 401 keywords with a connection degree of two or higher was generated and used for network analysis.

Network Statistical Analysis and Visualization

Statistical analysis was performed and visualized using a one-mode network to discover the core keywords in the journals.

The centrality of the network was analyzed for degree centrality, closeness centrality, and betweenness centrality, which are indicators of centrality, and the average and concentration of each centrality were confirmed. Centrality indicators show that words with high centrality are considered core keywords to the extent that words in the network are centered. 29 The value of the centrality indicator exists between 0 and 1; the larger the value, the higher the centrality of the word. 28 The average centrality indicator refers to the center value of the entire network centrality indicator, and centralization represents the degree to which a network is structurally concentrated or distributed across a specific word. Thus, an intensive link flow in a small number of words indicates that the network is highly concentrated. 29

Degree centrality refers to the degree of connection between nodes (in this study, keywords used in the analysis) in the network; this indicates co-occurrence between words and indicates the number of connections between nodes. 28 Keywords with high connection centrality are often connected to other keywords, which means that they are important keywords. Closeness centrality refers to the degree to which a node is located close to another node in the network. 28 Keywords with high proximity centrality may be interpreted as keywords that play a central role in the network while reaching other keywords the fastest. Betweenness centrality refers to the degree to which other nodes and intermediaries play a role in the network. 28 Keywords with high mediation betweenness centrality serve as bridges that interconnect sub-keywords between networks. The top 30 words with high degree centrality, closeness centrality, and betweenness centrality were visualized as sociograms. The larger the node size, the larger the centrality index, and the thicker the link, the higher the co-occurrence frequency.

Sub-theme Analysis

To identify the sub-theme groups, the authors first extracted the largest component based on cohesion in the NetMiner program and then performed an eigenvector community analysis. A component is a group in which keywords are connected without being broken. Communities refer to subgroups with relatively low modularity, high connection density inside the group, and relatively low connection density outside the group within the component structure. The modularity value is used to determine the optimality of the community structure; eigenvector community modularity can have a value between negative (−) infinity and “1”—the larger the value, the better the modularity. 30

Ethical Considerations

This study was approved by the institutional review board (CNUH-2020-247) of the university hospital located in an urban area of Korea to protect the participants, where the current study was conducted. Participants were informed about the purpose of the study, their rights to anonymity and confidentiality, and their freedom to withdraw from the study. Written informed consent was obtained from those who wished to participate in the study.

Keywords of the Critical Reflective Journal of New Nurses

The top 30 keywords by simple frequency, degree centrality, closeness centrality, and betweenness centrality were identified as core keywords in the journals (Table ​ (Table1). 1 ). The simple frequency appeared in following order: “medication,” “intravenous (IV) cannulation,” “preparation,” “incompetence,” and “explanation.” In this study, the means of the degree centrality, closeness centrality, and betweenness centrality of the word networks were 0.216, 0.501, and 0.037, respectively, and the concentrations were 24.9%, 30.2%, and 14.0%, respectively. Regarding degree centrality, “incompetence,” “explanation,” “preparation,” “medication,” and “properly” were the most important keywords. Regarding closeness centrality, “incompetence,” “preparation,” “explanation,” and “time” were the most important keywords. Regarding betweenness centrality, “incompetence,” “preparation,” “first try,” “understand,” and “explanation” were the most important keywords. In the analysis of the most memorable events during the orientation period for new nurses, words such as “incompetence,” “preparation,” “explanation,” and “injection” were high in both frequency and centrality. Regarding the simple frequency, “medication” was the most frequent keyword. Regarding the centrality analysis, “incompetence” was the most important keyword.

Top 30 Keywords That Emerged From the Reflective Journal of New Nurses

Visualizing the Main Semantic Structure

Figure ​ Figure1 1 presents a sociogram, a graph consisting of nodes and links, of the top 30 keywords. The size of a node indicates the degree centrality, and the thickness of a link indicates the strength of the connection, that is, the frequency of co-occurrence. The researchers examined the semantic structure by focusing on five core topics: “medication,” which is strongly tied with “study,” “explanation,” “examination,” and “remember”; “preparation,” which is part of a semantic structure with “injection,” “operation,” “medication,” “time,” and “fluid”; “time,” which is strongly tied with “nursing” and “performance”; and “explanation,” which is part of a semantic structure with “caregiver,” “incompetence,” and “nursing.” Finally, “IV cannulation,” “fluid,” and “organization” formed the semantic structures; “first try,” “IV cannulation,” “admission,” and “night” appeared as meaningful structures; and “properly” and “explanation,” “need,” and “study” appeared as meaningful structures.

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Keyword network analysis of the reflective journal of new nurses.

Regarding degree centrality and closeness centrality, “night,” “operation,” “condition,” and “suction” showed low degree centrality and centered on “incompetent,” which demonstrated the highest centrality. Regarding betweenness centrality, “night,” “blood glucose management,” “fluid,” “condition,” “operation,” and “suction” showed low betweenness centrality and centered on “incompetent,” which again demonstrated the highest centrality.

Sub-thematic Groups

The component analysis and eigenvector community analysis based on cohesion in the keyword network yielded three sub-thematic groups with an optimal modularity of 0.257 identified with sociograms (Figure ​ (Figure2). 2 ). Group 1 was classified into “medication,” “preparation,” “IV cannulation,” “first try,” “administration,” “injection,” “examination,” “blood glucose management,” “operation,” “fluid,” “blood sampling,” “blood,” “night,” and “caregiver.” Group 2 was classified into “incompetence,” “time,” “nursing,” “properly,” “electronic medical record (EMR),” “understand,” “study,” “organization,” “performance,” “condition,” and “suction.” Group 3 was classified into “explanation,” “need,” “remember,” “situation,” and “admission.” The research topic groups were named based on the contexts in which the keywords of each subgroup were used. The three sub-themes were (1) basic nursing skills required for new nurses, (2) insufficient competency, and (3) explanation of nursing work.

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Visualization of subgroup analysis from the reflective journal of new nurses.

This study sought to understand the work experiences of new nurses by using a TNA method to analyze the contents of the critical reflective journals they wrote during their orientation (the first 8 weeks after they began working in the hospital). The main semantic structure specifically showed the context of the core topic.

More specifically, the frequency and centrality analyses confirmed that, in terms of working directly with patients, the new nurses had the most difficulty with tasks related to medication. The contents of the analysis suggest that a new nurse must prepare drugs for patients and explain the medication to the patient while administering the drug through injection. The new nurses described their experiences with this process in their journals as follows: “When I went to the patient to inject the drugs, the patient asked a question about why the drug was being used, but I did not explain the reason properly” and “I don't know how to explain the efficacy and side effects of various types of drugs administered to patients.” These excerpts suggest that new nurses lack knowledge about medications and experience job stress and low confidence; if these problems are not resolved, they may lead to job turnover. 31 New nurses must learn to administer medications; this is a core basic nursing skill in nursing colleges. A practical training room in the hospital is necessary to provide systematic and sufficient opportunities for repeated practice to improve the confidence of new nurses in their core basic nursing skills and reduce work stress. 32

This study uncovered the following main semantic structures. First, new nurses experience a lack of clinical knowledge about medication and feel a need to study on their own. In addition, a lack of drug-related knowledge caused new nurses to feel burdened when teaching a patient or their caregivers about a medication before administering it. Additionally, new nurses felt that they should remember what they learned on their own and in clinical practice from their preceptors. They also felt the need to learn and study the drugs used in many tests. Medication errors are an important factor in patient safety and are the most frequent medical accidents. 33 Administering the correct drug to the correct patient, providing information about the drug to the patient, and confirming and reporting the side effects of a drug is necessary to reduce medication errors; therefore, it is crucial to emphasize this in nursing programs. 33 Because this study found that new nurses experienced many difficulties with medication, it is necessary to establish a protocol for clinical practice and improve systematic education through simulation. 34

Second, this study confirmed that new nurses must prepare to successfully give injections, oral medications, and fluids and to facilitate operations (eg, preparing dressing materials). 35 In addition, new nurses were frequently pressed for time while taking care of patients. The results were similar to those from a study in which new nurses reported that the confidence level for the item “I can completely care for a patient within the allotted time” was low at 20%–50%. 36 New nurses often work overtime at hospitals; for example, some nurses go to work 2 hours early and complete their records after work because they do not have enough time to complete their duties within their scheduled hours. 37 This suggests that nursing tasks should be more appropriately distributed. 36

Third, new nurses need skills to explain their care to patients or caregivers while working. Accordingly, new nurses need to have strong relationship and communication skills. 38 The journals revealed that new nurses feel their work requires them to be able to properly explain different elements of care to patients and their caregivers; however, they often felt that they did not have the knowledge or skills necessary to carry out this duty. Moreover, the new nurses themselves felt they needed to study to ensure that they were not ignorant in ways that may harm the patient. Therefore, a system should be established to help new nurses strengthen their skills by actively utilizing support resources at the hospital level; notably, this may reduce turnover. Along these lines, a simulation program related to communication should be used during orientation to increase the communication abilities of new nurses. 39

Fourth, new nurses reported difficulties with IV cannulation and their first inpatient admissions. They felt pressured to complete an IV cannulation for the first time and struggled to connect and arrange various fluids. Simulations that teach new nurses how to administer intravenous injections should be included in orientations in response to this trend. Most wards in this research institute use functional nursing, with different numbers of people per service. Therefore, new nurses completed different tasks during day and evening shifts, such as IV cannulation, injection, and vital sign and blood glucose testing during the former and overseeing patients, checking prescriptions, and entering records during the latter. Accordingly, they reported that night work was very complicated and that they felt that they were lacking in their skills to complete it successfully. Previous studies reported that new nurses in Korea experienced excessive workload, communication difficulties, and low confidence in their work, suggesting that active intervention is needed to improve clinical adaptation in new nurses. 36 Therefore, there is a need to develop various programs, such as communication programs and basic nursing skill simulations, for new nurses.

Finally, based on the analysis of the three sub-thematic groups, the first subject group was “basic nursing skills required for new nurses.” The ability to perform basic nursing skills is an essential element for new nurses to adapt to practice: when nursing skills are lacking, they experience overload in the clinical field; this leads to increased stress, which increases the resignation rate. 40 In 2019, Korean institutions began to ensure they were offering clinical nurse educator systems and training programs to reduce the resignation rate of new nurses by improving their competency. 41 Programs that intensively train new nurses in basic nursing skills at the initial stage of their employment are essential in hospitals to help new nurses adapt to practice. The second thematic group was “insufficient competency.” New nurses start clinical work with insufficient clinical experience and competency; experience difficulties in providing and selecting appropriate treatments for patients; and must cope with overload, which increases their role burden. 37 Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the amount of work assigned to new nurses and to develop educational programs that can identify problems by presenting various situations that can help them understand their work. The third topic group was “explanation of nursing work.” New nurses most frequently deal with patients and caregivers and thus feel pressured to properly explain things to them (eg, why patients are hospitalized, what medications they are receiving); this feeds their desire to remember what they have learned. In addition, new nurses often complain of communication difficulties 38 ; accordingly, clinical communication programs should be developed to overcome this problem.

Unlike previous studies, this study analyzed the experiences of new nurses by applying TNA to the critical reflective journals they wrote during orientation. However, the information was only collected over the course of a year, which limits the generalizability of the research results. In addition, the fact that the nursing manager reports and provides feedback on the journals may have limited direct expression. To overcome these limitations, a program for the in-depth analysis of new nurses' experiences should be implemented in the future. Ultimately, this study sets the foundation for further analysis of the experiences of new nurses by being the first to use a TNA to effectively explore the subjective experiences of new nurses.

This study applied a TNA to identify, group, and analyze core keywords in the critical reflective journals new nurses wrote during their orientation at tertiary general hospitals in Korea. New nurses' most memorable events during orientation were reflected by high-frequency and high-centrality words, such as “incompetence,” “preparation,” “explanation,” and “injection.”

This study's results can guide best practice for improving the field adaptability of new nurses and reducing their turnover rate. Currently, nursing students in Korea nursing mainly complete observation-oriented practicums; this increases the burden on their basic nursing skills. Being compelled to perform extensive duties beyond their competencies is causing exhaustion among new nurses. To mitigate these issues, changes should be made to the new nurse education system to better prepare new nurses and nursing duties should be more efficiently distributed.

This study was financially supported from Back Ui Association, Chonnam National University Hospital (2021).

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

Ethical Approval: The study was approved by the Chonnam National University Hospital Institutional Review Board (approval number: CNUH-2020-247).

Hye Won Jeong: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5664-8672

Shin Hye Ahn: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1403-2711


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    Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process ...

  20. Development of nursing students' critical thinking and clinical

    The importance of nurses' critical thinking skills in improving clinical decision-making is well known (Lee et al., 2017; Ludin, 2018). It has been emphasized that critical thinking and decision-making skills are at the center of all nursing curricula in nursing education (Lee et al., 2017; Reji & Saini, 2022).

  21. Factors associated with the critical thinking ability of professional

    Particularly, few hospitals have evaluated the critical thinking skills of nurses before employment or during the clinical competency evaluation (Lang et al., 2013). By reviewing 90 articles to assess the current state of the scientific knowledge regarding critical thinking in nursing, Zuriguel‐Pérez et al., ( 2015 ) found that only 16 ...

  22. Critical Thinking: A Simple Guide and Why It's Important

    Critical thinking enriches communication skills, enabling the clear and logical articulation of ideas. Whether in emails, presentations, or casual conversations, individuals adept in critical thinking exude clarity, earning appreciation for their ability to convey thoughts seamlessly. ☑ Adaptability and Resilience

  23. Critical thinking ability of new graduate and experienced nurses

    Critical thinking, advanced problem-solving, and expert communication skills are an integral part of nursing practice and should be developed through nursing education programmes. Many nurses with a year or less of experience fail to meet expectations on the Performance Based Development System Assessment.

  24. Capturing New Nurses' Experiences and Supporting Critical Thinking

    Significantly, this study is the first to use the text network method to analyze the subjective experiences of the critical reflective journals of new nurses. In conclusion, changes are needed to improve the education system for new nurses and promote efficient sharing of nursing tasks. KEY WORDS: Critical thinking, Diary, In-service training ...