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Why is Critical Thinking Important in Nursing?

Nurses play a critical role in patient care. When someone is sick, they count on nurses to administer their care, track their health, and communicate with their doctor to help them get better. Nurses who excel in critical thinking can substantially better perform these tasks, setting themselves up for career success.

Those who want to excel in their careers, therefore, will pay close attention to the importance of their critical thinking skills. A better ability to evaluate situations in front of you, make decisions based on the information presented, and make the right decisions for patient care can all help you become a better nurse. You will find yourself able to improve the care you administer to your patients.

Additionally, critical thinking skills can help nurses who want to advance their careers. If you want to rise to a leadership position, you must demonstrate that you can think clearly about people’s individual strengths, organize the nursing floor, and provide guidance to others. You must also be able to think about areas outside the nursing scope, such as staffing and budget issues, to work effectively as a nursing leader.

We will explore what you need to know about the value of cultivating critical thinking skills as a nurse and what these skills might look like in practice so that you can continue to build your career. 

What is Critical Thinking in Nursing?

Critical thinking skills in nursing will combine several areas of expertise to help you become a fantastic nurse. It will call upon your intellectual skills and your competencies in nursing. You need to have a firm handle on the medical scope of nursing practice so that knowing how to help patients becomes second nature.

Critical thinking also calls for experience. For nurses, experience in the field can have a tremendous role in helping them fine-tune their knowledge and skills.

Finally, building your skills in this area also requires nurses to focus on practicing putting their skills of problem-solving and decision-making together with their intellect so that they can better evaluate their problems and find the solutions and answers that will improve their overall nursing practice. 

Why Are Critical Thinking Skills Important?

Nurses who want to provide their patients with better care will quickly discover that critical thinking skills will help them substantially. By applying the ability to think through problems and evaluate the information in front of them, nurses will quickly become more effective at their jobs. They will be able to treat the patient in front of them, providing more personalized care based on the unique individual. For example, knowing that a particular patient tends to underrate their pain levels might help them better determine when it is time to increase that patient’s pain management rather than waiting for the patient to indicate that their pain had reached a particular rating on a scale.

Critical thinking skills can also help nurses gather important information they need about their patients. They will improve their communication skills, as they will have more experience evaluating what their patient says, sorting through it, and then determining what data points play a critical role in the treatment of the patient and which ones are less central to the patient’s pain or illness. 

Examples of Critical Thinking Skills

When nurses take the time to nurture their critical thinking skills, they will find it helps them with a variety of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. They will see how their patients might differ from the typical textbook cases they covered in nursing school. For example, if a patient has been prescribed blood pressure medication but the patient’s blood pressure now seems to be low, the nurse will know to further evaluate the patient and discuss the situation with the doctor rather than just giving them their prescribed medication at the appropriate time.

Nurses with quality critical thinking skills will also find it easier to take a holistic look at the patient’s history and their current physical state. They will be better equipped to correctly surmise when something seems out of the ordinary for a particular patient and further evaluation or a doctor is needed. For example, someone whose temperature runs lower than the average 98.6 might show signs of a fever with a lower temperature. For patients with certain diseases or going through certain types of treatment, identifying potential fevers early plays an important role in their treatment, and thus, this insight can greatly improve the patient’s wellbeing.

Learning Critical Thinking Skills in Nursing School

Quality nursing programs, like the ones offered through Post University at the American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences, can go a long way in helping students nurture critical thinking skills. These programs prepare students to be ready to face the challenges and quick-thinking situations they will encounter as practicing nurses.

These programs encourage nurses to think carefully about the problems they face. Students are encouraged to build their analysis skills by sorting through information and determining what offers the most significance in a given situation. They can then use this information to see the best path forward for a particular problem.

Nurses should also receive encouragement and practice in looking at problems from a variety of angles. When faced with new situations, cultural gaps, and misunderstandings, or other situations that might make it more challenging to make the best nursing decisions, these medical professionals should have practice evaluating situations from different perspectives. Schools can help them practice these skills by providing them with unexpected scenarios to walk through these types of situations.

Finally, nursing programs will need to provide nurses with a quality education and ample opportunities to put newly acquired skills to the test. When nurses have a solid educational foundation and opportunities to use their skills in real-life scenarios, competencies become second nature. They find they intuitively know what to do in different emergency situations, helping them make better nursing decisions and resulting in a nurse that is more equipped to apply critical thinking skills when the need arises. 

Nursing Programs That Help Expand Critical Thinking

Those who want to build critical thinking skills will discover there are a variety of nursing programs available that can help them build their credentials, nursing competencies, and critical thinking skills. Post University at the American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers a few tracks that nurses can pursue to become stronger nurses, including programs for:

This program is designed to help nurses who received an associate degree in nursing and want to build their skills and understanding with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This program helps students improve their ability to complete health assessments, understand nursing research, improve health care delivery, and build a nursing practice. As students build skills and learn to analyze the data in front of them, they quickly find that they can build their nursing critical thinking skills.

An online Master of Science in Nursing program allows nurses to keep working while they build their skills. You have the chance to learn more about leadership, nursing skills, case management, infection prevention and control, and more to help nurses improve patient outcomes. Students also get to select a specialization, boosting their credentials and experience within the specific field where they will work.

Improving Critical Thinking Skills as a Nurse

Nurses that want to improve their critical thinking skills can take several concrete steps to improve their abilities, including:

  • Ask questions, particularly when going through school and on-the-job training. During your nursing training, you have the opportunity to build your knowledge bank and experience and improve your understanding of what to do in different situations. Nursing critical thinking skills calls upon you to combine your analysis abilities with your practical skills.
  • Find mentors that have the skills you want to cultivate. When you look for a mentor on the job, focus on finding another nurse who demonstrates the critical thinking skills and patient care abilities you want. Ask their advice about different situations, how they would respond for different patients, and what it takes to develop these important skills. Think carefully about any positive and critical feedback you receive. This can help you better implement the ideas your mentor suggests.
  • Evaluate your decisions after making them. After you make important decisions in the field, take a moment to sit back and think carefully through your thought processes and what influenced you as you made your decision. Is there anything you might do differently with hindsight? This review and practice will help you continuously improve your analysis and critical thinking skills.
  • Practice stepping back from problems to examine the situation holistically. You can do this in both your professional and your personal life. Look at the different factors influencing the problem, the decision you need to make, any additional information you need to gather to make the best possible decision, and what other factors might influence the outcome. See if you need to look at the situation from a different perspective to make the best possible decision. 

Are You Ready to Build Your Critical Thinking Skills?

If you are ready to nurture your critical thinking skills and take your career to the next level, then it is time to consider the outstanding nursing programs offered at the American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Our nursing programs prepare nurses to excel in the field, offering classes that focus on building not only nursing skills but also analysis and critical thinking skills. Our graduates finish their programs knowing they can provide their patients with the best possible care.

With different courses designed to help those who want to earn their associate degree, turn an RN into a BSN, pursue a BSN-to-MSN program, or earn a DNP, we offer coursework to help nurses of all levels excel. Come and learn more about what these programs can do for you and your career right here.