Critical thinking in nursing is a vital skill that is often overlooked. This is a shame because nursing can literally involve life and death decisions – all of which would benefit from critical thinking. Read this blog to find out about the importance of critical thinking in nursing.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is a very simple term for a very complex mindset. Broadly speaking, it is examining your own thought processes and identifying any narrow-mindedness, bias, assumptions or oversights. By being aware of these influences over how you think, you can evaluate them and ensure that you are making a decision based on logic, reason and evidence.
While no one can completely remove influencing factors, by being self-aware and practising critical thinking you can make decisions that you feel comfortable about.
There are two forms of critical thinking, with differing levels of difficulty.
1. General Critical Thinking
General critical thinking is a skill set that you can apply to any situation. It is mostly determined by your self-awareness, and some people have higher natural affinities for it than others. The reason it is so difficult is because there are basic skills that need to be known before you can be effective at critical thinking.
For example, it is difficult to identify a biased opinion if you have no general knowledge about the subject in the first place.
2. Domain-Specific Critical Thinking
Domain-specific critical thinking is easier to learn and practise. Just by becoming a nurse, you will have amassed a huge knowledge base about nursing.
Armed with this knowledge, you’ll find it much easier to spot flaws in your reasoning while you are working. Domain-specific is also easier to practise because you are constantly facing opportunities to refine your thinking as you go about your workday.
Now you know the difference between the two forms of critical thinking, find out more about critical thinking in nursing.
8 Steps on How to Use Critical Thinking in Nursing
The Australian College of Nursing has created an 8-step process for nurses to follow if they want to apply critical thinking in nursing.
- Look: look at, and assess, the patient
- Collect: gather any available information about the patient
- Process: analyse the information and make your interpretations
- Decide/Identify: diagnose the patient based on the evidence
- Plan: decide what outcome you believe is achievable
- Act: Make a treatment plan and act on it
- Evaluate: review the patient’s progress and condition
- Reflect: identify opportunity areas and how you will learn from them
This process may seem overly time-consuming, but the more you do it the faster it will be. Eventually, most of these steps on critical thinking in nursing will happen subconsciously.
8 Tips on the Application of Critical Thinking in Nursing.
Critical thinking makes you better at a variety of skills, like decision making and problem solving. It also helps you avoid common unhelpful mental processes that stop you from reaching your full potential.
While nursing is a job that requires emotional intelligence and compassion, it is important that treatment decisions are made objectively. By using critical thinking to focus on the facts before you, rather than on assumptions or biases, you can make sure your decisions are correct.
2. Decision Making Clarity
By stripping away influences like bias and personal opinion, decisions are easier to make with critical thinking. This is because they are evidence and logic based, rather than emotional. By removing the emotional response, you will feel less doubt and avoid second-guessing yourself, which will let you make decisions faster.
3. Teamwork and Feedback Acceptance
Teamwork is crucial to providing proper patient care. By using critical thinking to reflect on criticism and feedback, you can separate useful information from your emotional response.
By not letting hurt feelings and a sense of inadequacy or disappointment spoil the message, not only can you improve yourself based on your teams’ feedback, you can learn how to provide valuable feedback to others in return. While an individual critical thinker is great, a team of critical thinkers is unbeatable.
The great thing about critical thinking in nursing is that you can use it to hold yourself accountable. Critical thinkers are constantly examining their own beliefs and ethics. Because of that, If you are instructed to do something you believe is incorrect or wrong, you will have the confidence to question it.
You’ll find it much easier to stand up for your convictions when they are clear to you.
5. Curiosity and Problem Solving
Once you begin to tear down assumptions in favour of evidence, you’ll naturally start to become more curious. After all, the more evidence you have, the more accurate your decisions can be.
For most people, it is compelling to maintain the status quo. Once you realise that you are simply following the crowd, you will begin to think outside the box to see if different methods could be more efficient or lead to improved patient outcomes.
As your critical thinking abilities develop, you’ll become aware of when you are opting for the path of least resistance. This could be a shortcut in a patient’s treatment or avoiding confronting a colleague over poor performance.
Nurses who use critical thinking are perseverant because they don’t cut corners – they keep going until they find the right solution.
7. Avoid Becoming Trapped in Tradition
A common phenomenon in hospitals is the appeal of tradition. Doing something “because that’s the way it has always been done” can be commonplace because of the mix of ages and experience levels that can be present in a ward. Critical thinking is ideal for avoiding doing something just because it is traditional.
With critical thinking, you can determine whether a tradition is valuable or not by considering it from an impartial, evidence-based point of view.
While that may seem like a lot of different skills to learn, remember that critical thinking is an ongoing, lifelong attempt at self-improvement.
8. Employers Love Critical Thinking in Nursing
Another great benefit of critical thinking in nursing is how great it looks on your resume. Employers love critical thinkers because they know that they are consistent, trustworthy, principled and committed to personal development. Most of all, it shows you are capable of working autonomously.
Nurse agencies in particular place a high value on critical thinking. Agency nurses are able to manage their own schedules and may work across multiple healthcare fields. When they see critical thinking on a resume, they know that the applicant can work independently and that they will bring their own set of standards to any workplace.
If you are considering joining a nursing agency, Nurses Now is the perfect choice. They pride themselves on their values and high standards, so you can rest assured that you are among professionals who embody all the positive traits of critical thinking in nursing.