The Importance of Critical Thinking in Nursing

Row of smiling medical staff sitting on a bench in health care facility

Critical Thinking, A Priority for Nurses & Medical Professionals

The importance of critical thinking in nursing cannot be exaggerated. Critical thinking is a core competency in health science programs throughout the world.  Critical thinking assessments are used to admit students, predicting those at risk for clinical errors or licensure failure. These assessments are also used to document progress on learning outcomes.

Critical thinking involves every aspect of a nurse’s performance.

The American Association of Colleges of Nurses’ definition of critical thinking as published in their Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice states:

“Critical Thinking: All or part of the process of questioning, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, inference, inductive and deductive reasoning, intuition, application, and creativity (AACN, 1998). Critical thinking underlies independent and interdependent decision making.”

Critical thinking is seen as a prerequisite skill for clinical reasoning for many medical professionals.

8 Other Medical Associations that Value Critical Thinking

1.  The Accreditation Council for Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE)

ACPC includes a standard guideline for accreditation Schools of Pharmacy Education to develop strength in their students’ critical thinking through effective teaching and learning strategies, and to demonstrate this achievement through outcomes assessment (12.1, 12.2, 13.1)

2.  The Association of American Medical Colleges

The AAMC’s Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions (COA) endorses ‘The 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students.’ Competencies include critical thinking (Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems) and quantitative reasoning (Applies quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world).

3.  The American Occupational Therapy Association

The Blueprint for Entry-Level Education described critical thinking as needed by occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants. AAOTA saw these skills and habits of mind were essential for professional development, evidence based practice and business fundamentals.

4.  The Commission on Dental Accreditation

Accreditation Standards for Dental Education Programs, adopted August, 2010 stated:  “Graduates must be competent in the use of critical thinking and problem-solving, including their use in the comprehensive care of patients, scientific inquiry and research methodology.”

Quotation: making an accurate diagnosis, ordering the right tests or prescribing the right therapies are all rooted in the ability to think critically- R. Schwartzenstein MD

5.  The Academy of Acute Care Physical Therapy

‘The Core Competencies for Entry-level Practice in Acute Care Physical Therapy’ recognized that clinical decision making is an integral component of all the competency sections.   Competency 1, Entry-Level Clinical Decision-Making in Acute Care, states: “Clinical reasoning is the deliberation about a course of action within a specific context and with an ability to anticipate outcomes guided by a framework of previous experiences and knowledge of best evidence. In acute care, clinical reasoning serves as the foundation for competency in all areas – including communication, safety, discharge planning and patient management.“

6.  The World Health Organization

Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Leadership Competencies include critical thinking as“the ability to identify an issue, dilemma, or problem; frame it as a specific question; explore and evaluate information relevant to the question; and integrate the information into development of a resolution. An advanced manifestation of critical thinking is evidence-based practice – the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence about practice, the creation of policy, and the conduct of research”.

7.  The American Association of Medical Assistants

AAMA recognizes the importance of critical thinking in the skills needed by Certified Medical Assistants. Donald A.  Balasa, Executive Director of the AAMA, described critical thinking skills as a linchpin in the practice of the patient-centered care provided by the CMA, used to identify and appropriately refer issues worthy of special attention to the physician and other care team members.

8.  The Council on Social Work Education

The Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards lays out 10 core social work competencies.   One specifically points to critical thinking: “”Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments.”  This career emphasis is an international value:  the Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards stipulates that all AASW accredited Social Work Degrees incorporate curriculum content that develops critical thinking skills.

Group of four medical professionals discussing a file

How Strong is Critical Thinking for Your Nurses & Other Medical Professionals?

Insight Assessment health science test instruments are used globally to document the quality of decision making skills.  Comprehensive individual and group reports support program evaluation, benchmarking, and curricular change.

INSIGHT Health, Health Science Reasoning Test (HSRT), HSRT-Associate Degree (HSRT-AD) identify the strengths and weaknesses in applicant critical thinking and to build successful teams. Two year, four year and graduate level Health Sciences comparison percentiles are provided.These include Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Dental Hygiene, Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy, Medicine, Physician Assistant, Allied Health, Health Sciences.  Additionally, Insight Assessment offers flexible test administration options,quality translations and multilingual online test taker interface options.

INSIGHT Development Program is a cost-effective series of online thinking skills and mindset enrichment modules. It comes complete with exercises as well as assessment metrics and performance reporting tools.  While designed for independent study by employees, it can  be incorporated into existing training programs.

Interested in high stakes, research based, critical thinking solutions for health science students and professionals?  Contact Insight Assessment to learn more.

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