Monday, August 19, 2013

Considerations When Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

Considerations When Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

The ability to use critical thinking in the nursing field has long been considered a major asset to the profession. A nurse who is able to question and adapt from situation to situation will fare much better than a nurse who stringently follows the textbook. While the rules are extremely important in a medical profession, sometimes it is necessary for a nurse to think on their feet to provide the best care for a patient. When teaching nurses the concept of critical thinking consider that some students will have an instinctive predisposition to question the facts, while others will need more nurturing and instruction.

Teaching students critical thinking is a worthwhile challenge.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking, by definition, is “the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” (Random House Dictionary) Applying this into the daily duties of a nurse is extremely important, and can be the defining factor of whether or not a nurse is successful in the field. The best nurses are able to navigate their way through the more unusual situations they face by using critical thinking to both analyze and evaluate on a case by case basis. Those nurses who are not able to do this find themselves obsessively following laid-out instructions, leaving no room to make necessary decisions along the way.

I am a better nurse because I ask questions.

How do I teach my students to think critically?

There are several ways to teach critical thinking to your students, but the best way is to make them use it in the classroom. Ask questions constantly, especially ones whose answers won’t be found in the textbook. Challenging your students with scenarios that make them think will give them the skills they need when they begin their careers.

Be sure to explain that standardized practices are still extremely important and help to protect them as nurses, the institutions they work for, and the patients. However, when the time comes for a decision to be made that may or may not be applicable to the standard way of doing things, your students will be better prepared to make necessary informed decisions. Many nurses are wary of using critical thinking in the job because they are afraid of upsetting the higher-ups or getting into trouble. As long as a nurse follows necessary protocol, critical thinking is a highly sought after quality and can make the work environment run much more smoothly and efficiently.

Teaching critical thinking can be a challenge.

The majority of your students won’t become successful critical thinkers overnight, but you can arm them with the basic critical thinking skills they’ll need as nurses. Encourage your students to never stop asking questions, to never stop learning, and to always view their patients as people. These qualities will provide the perfect building blocks to create a successful and rewarding career in nursing.

Jessica Galbraith is a freelance writer living in the UK. When she isn’t writing, she is buying secondhand office furniture.

by Jessica Galbraith via