Critical Thinking and Nursing: Why They Go Hand in Hand

critical-thinking-and-nursing-why-they-go-hand-in-hand_bpThere are many qualities people look for in nurses. Empathy, compassion, the ability to communicate, the desire to make a difference, the list could go on for awhile. While there are many good qualities to the best nurses, one of the main characteristics every nurse should have is the ability to critically think.

Being able to critically think is one of the most important qualities of a nurse. Below, we delve further into the idea of critical thinking to help you learn why it is so important and show you how to develop your own critical thinking skills.

What does it mean to think critically?

We’ve all seen and probably used the term “critical thinking,” but what does it actually mean?

“Critical thinking is defined as the mental process of actively and skillfully perception, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of collected information through observation, experience and communication that leads to a decision for action.”1

In more simpler terms, according to Rasmussen College, “critical thinking includes identifying a problem, determining the best solution and choosing the most effective method of reaching that solution. After executing the plan, critical thinkers reflect on the situation to figure out if it was effective and if it could be done better.”2

Why are critical thinking skills so important to nursing?

As a nurse, the answer to a patient’s problem is never crystal clear – that’s where critical thinking comes in. Nurses have to take the visual evidence or symptoms and have to think critically to come up with a solution that matches the symptoms.

The Critical Thinking Community says “all acts in nursing are deeply significant and require of the nurse a mind fully engaged in the practice of nursing. This is the challenge of nursing; critical, reflective practice based on the sound reasoning of intelligent minds committed to safe, effective client care.”3

As a nurse, you have to be able to make concrete decision under pressure, and this requires thinking critically.

How do nurses acquire critical thinking skills?

Many nurses begin to develop their critical thinking skills in nursing school. Nursing students are put in many scenarios where they must critically think, in order to fine tune their skills.

According to Rasmussen College, “your critical thinking skills will be put to the test during nursing exams. […] You’ll quickly discover that questions may have multiple ‘right’ answers – though one answer may be ‘the most right’ for that particular situation. This may sound confusing, but it is intentionally done in order to help prepare you for real-life nursing scenarios. You will often find yourself in situations where there are few ‘correct’ forms of care, but one this is most appropriate.”2

It’s important to remember that developing critical thinking skills does not end once you’re out of nursing school. Once you actually start working as a nurse, you have the chance to really hone in your skills.

Why do you think critical thinking is important? Tell us in the comments below!