Critical Thinking and Decision-Making in Contemporary Nursing

Introduction

For a nurse, it is of crucial importance to possess critical thinking and decision-making skills. These skills need to be developed throughout the nurse’s education and practiced in the clinical setting to become a habit. In this paper, we will analyze the importance of both critical thinking and decision-making skills in the nursing profession.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking has been becoming a more and more crucial feature of a nurse over a number of years. This is due to the importance of such principles as evidence-based practice, patient-centered care, and the need to increase the satisfaction of the patients (Chan, 2013, p. 236). It is stated that there exist a number of definitions of critical thinking, but the features that a nurse has to possess so as to be described as a critical thinker include the following: a) looking for and finding data; b) questioning and exploring; c) analyzing, assessing, and drawing conclusions; d) solving problems and applying the theoretical knowledge (Chan, 2013, p. 236). It is clear that these characteristics do not emerge on their own, but need to be developed throughout the course of a nurse’s education and practiced in the clinical setting so as to become a habit.

In order to develop the traits that are crucial for critical thinking in the educational setting, students, among other tasks, are required to write papers on various topics in which these skills can be employed. A nursing student has to strive to evaluate the problem given in an assignment and produce an answer using their own skills and knowledge. The assistance of peers can be useful, but it is important not to overuse their help (for instance, by “borrowing” any components of one another’s work), for this demonstrates the lack of critical thinking. It is also always possible to ask the instructors for advice if a task appears difficult or unclear to a particular student.

Decision Making

Effective decision-making is of crucial importance for the representatives of the nursing profession due to the fact that in the clinical setting it is necessary to make choices, and these choices may have significant importance for a patient’s well-being or even their life. Dowding et al. (2011) point out that “critical thinking is often considered to be a prerequisite for making ‘good’ judgements and decisions” (p. 350). Importantly, it is also stressed that for effective decision making, the utilization of evidence-based practice (EBP) is paramount, which, in turn, requires a certain degree of cognitive maturity (Nickerson & Thurkettle, 2013).

Thus, EBP is a principle that encourages a nurse to seek recent evidence in order to make the best decisions. It is apparent that EBP is an integral part of effective decision-making for a nurse. Thus, in order for nurses to be able to make the best decisions, it is of crucial significance for them to start practicing EBP and other similar principles during their education. This will allow them to develop the necessary habits, as well as the cognitive maturity, and finally be able to make good choices when it comes to caring for patients. Of course, the nursing students may ask for help from their peers or instructors, but they must also be able to rely on their own wits in order to be ready for caring for patients and not to become perplexed or confused when a patient’s well-being is at stake.

Conclusion

To sum up, it should be stressed that both critical thinking and decision making skills are essential for a contemporary practitioner of the nursing arts. These skills need to be developed while the nurse is obtaining their education, and further consolidated in the clinical setting.

References

Chan, Z. C. Y. (2013). A systematic review of critical thinking in nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 33(3), 236-240. Web.

Dowding, D., Gurbutt, R., Murphy, M., Lascelles, M., Pearman, A., & Summers, B. (2011). Conceptualising decision making in nursing education. Journal of Research in Nursing, 17(4), 348-360.

Nickerson, C. J., & Thurkettle, M. A. (2013). Cognitive maturity and readiness for evidence-based nursing practice. Journal of Nursing Education, 52(1), 17-23.