Understanding Why Nurses Need Critical Thinking Skills

There are many obvious traits that people expect a nurse to have, such as compassion for others, a caring and nurturing personality, and the sincere desire to help others along with the unique ability to deal with all those things that others might find, well, stomach turning.

As a nursing program manager, I talk with hundreds of people seeking information on how they can become a nurse, including many who wonder if they have what it takes. In nursing school we can teach you how to dress a wound, give an IV, and even save a life. I tell my potential nursing students that in order to learn how to do those things, you need to develop great critical thinking skills. Do you think like a nurse? Thinking like a nurse is not the same as thinking like an accountant, a web designer, or business owner.

Critical thinkers work hard to develop their skills; essentially they think about thinking!  What this means is they spend time developing clear and rational thoughts and make decisions based on the evidence available to them. Some say that critical thinkers think at a higher level than most people! Those who master critical thinking are able to analyze information and thoughts with clarity, accuracy, and reasoning.

While that is a lot to ask one person to do, that is exactly what we ask of our nurses. We require that they have the intellectual capacity to learn, the perseverance and discipline needed to stay the course, and the ability to apply and process the information they learn in order to make safe and sound decisions in the medical field.

Critical thinking skills apply not only to thinking, but also to reading, writing, speaking, and listening. You must be able to translate a thought clearly and accurately, quickly and logically, so that others understand what you are writing or saying without any confusion. Is this easy? Not for everyone. I think it takes a special person to be a nurse: nursing comes not only from the heart, but also from the brain. It takes the ability to take a problem, theory or idea, examine it, solve it, and clearly communicate it. You can’t guess or assume solutions must be based on specific criteria and the ability to defend your thinking with evidence.

So, you think you want to become a nurse? If you have a huge caring heart and can think compassionately and critically, then you just might have what it takes!

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LeeAnn Andronico, MBA is a Career Services Advisor at Rasmussen College in Tampa/Brandon. She has worked in the field of higher education for over 2 years and has held various sales and management positions in the business side of medicine for over 15 years. Lee Ann has an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology in Management.

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