So, I surfed the Internet using critical thinking as critical thinking skills training search term, and I was overwhelmed. For nurses, this is not a new trend. Without even being aware of it, half the time, nurses critically think their way through every day. The thinking process that guides nursing practice must be organized, purposeful and disciplined because nursing decisions often profoundly affect their patients’ lives.
From the wealth of evidence out there on the web, critical thinking is a big topic. It’s probably too big for just one blog post, so here are seven characteristics of critical thinking to get us started. Critical thinking is reasonable and rational. Critical thinkers do not jump to conclusions. Critical thinking inspires an attitude of inquiry. A nurse who thinks critically wants to know how the body works and why it responds the way it does to disease, treatment and medications.
Critical thinkers are not easily manipulated. The patient in the emergency room demands medication for pain. The nurse needs specifics: how much pain, where, for how long? How often and does the client have a history with pain medications? Every ER nurse worth their salt has investigated the answers to these questions. Nurses come up with original ideas for day-to-day problems.
As mentioned in previous articles about medical mission work, the nursing team invented catheter collection containers out of water bottles and personal belonging bags out of used surgical gown sleeves. More mundane inventions happen daily in your local hospital. It is not biased or one-sided. Frequently this is about setting rules.
For example, everyone wants off sometime in the winter holiday season. It is the charge of nurses and the nurse managers to figure out a system for everyone to get some time without jeopardizing patient safety. At many institutions, this means turning in a preference for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s off and the staff settling individually for one of the three. Critical thinking focuses on deciding what to believe or do. It is that decision to call the physician even though it’s the middle of the night or the decision to put aside charting for a while and sit with a patient who is anxious.