Critical Thinking in Nursing

Case studies Across the Curriculum

By Carol Green, PhD, RN 

Critical thinking skills and attitudes are essential in todayís nursing environment. The complex legal, educational, and professional problems confronting nurses today emphasize the need for more than rote memory, knowledge of skills, and the ability to follow directions. This workbook will help you practice critical thinking through the analysis of cases encompassing several nursing specialties in a variety of hospital, clinical, and community settings. Activities are based on adult health, community, maternal-newborn, pediatric, and mental health nursing real-life scenarios. Each case study is accompanied by 4-6 questions (to be answered in narrative fashion) that encourage you to apply your critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking in Nursing: Case Studies Across the Curriculum    

The complex legal, educational, and professional problems confronting nurses today emphasize the need for more than rote memory, knowledge of skills, and the ability to follow directions. Indeed, today critical thinking is an expected competency of nurses at all levels of education and practice.

The National League for Nursing Education (NLNE) publishes a curriculum guide for nursing schools that outlines important characteristics for nurses. Good judgment, keen insight, use of discrimination, and the ability to detect physical and mental changes, draw conclusions, and make applications to other situations are some of these characteristics. These guidelines place even greater emphasis on critical inquiry, independent thinking, good judgment, and resourcefulness. These characteristics are accepted today as components of critical thinking. Most recently, educators have begun to promote the use of activities that foster student thinking abilities.

This course will help a nurse practice critical thinking through the analysis of nursing case studies. As with a typical nursing curriculum, the cases encompass several nursing specialties in a variety of hospital, clinical, and community settings and pertain to a variety of the specialty areas of nursing including adult health nursing, community and home care nursing, maternal-newborn nursing, pediatric nursing, and mental health nursing.

Critical thinking is a complex process that requires rational investigation of ideas, inferences, assumptions, principles, arguments, conclusions, issues, statements, beliefs, and actions that covers scientific reasoning and includes the nursing process, decision making, and reasoning in controversial issues. It is important for a nurse to familiarize herself with the characteristics of critical thinking and to develop critical thinking habits.

Each of the client case studies presents a unique diagnosis and situation for the nurse to analyze. Along with the variety presented, each case requires a combination of attitude and cognitive critical thinking components. A few of the cases emphasize one type of thinking over the other because of the subject matter.

The purpose of this course and its activities is to acquaint a nurse with the skills and attitudes associated with critical thinking and to provide her with practice opportunities for using these skills in better patient care.

Iíve enclosed the workbook, Critical Thinking in Nursing: Case Studies Across the Curriculum, in this submission.

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