The Challenges of Developing Nurses’ Critical Thinking

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Many healthcare institutions have impediments in the structure of how they deliver care that prove to be a hindrance to their efforts to develop new nurses’ critical thinking ability. In the article from which this post is taken, HealthStream’s Associate VP for Clinical Staff Development, Christie Kerwan, spoke about some specific challenges that are common across the industry.

Limited Clinical Space

Most nursing school programs have limited access to clinical space for their students to gain bedside experience. Kerwan explains that with the current healthcare shortage, there is also a shortage of hospitals and organizations that are willing to let nurses come in and practice and gain necessary skills.

High Risk

While critical thinking is not a nuance to healthcare, the stakes for learning how to think critically are incredibly high in this industry. Patient lives are at risk when students are practicing on them, but without the learned ability to critically think, nurses are unable to provide quality care.

Limited Experience

Simulation labs are often used in place of clinical rotations to teach new nurses clinical skills, including critical thinking. There is a range of options including high-fidelity manikins, low-fidelity manikins, online learning, e-simulation, and a blend of technologies. Unfortunately, many of these programs are cost-prohibitive for schools. Kerwan explains that though some organizations have high-fidelity simulation labs, some hospitals only have low-fidelity labs where students are pretending to perform skills and someone checks them off, a very subjective and ineffective way to assess critical thinking skills.

“Healthcare agencies are employing these new nurses who have had limited experience in the healthcare setting,” explains Kerwan. “Many of them come from schools that can’t afford the levels of simulation needed to really provide them with high-level experiential knowledge. Yet, they come into an organization and are expected to immediately make critical patient care decisions.”

Monitoring and Measuring

“Critical thinking has a nebulous definition—everyone has a general idea of what it means to them, but when it comes to narrowing in on something objective that can be monitored and measured, it becomes very difficult,” says Kerwan. Without an established standard within healthcare that lays out exactly how to monitor and measure critical thinking, organizations struggle with subjective evaluations.

Download the full article here.