Critical Thinking

  1. Does anyone know how I can sharpen my critical thinking skills? I am in school and my instructer is all about CT. I know the material and I fail the test. Any help would be greatly appriciated
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  2. 5 Comments

  3. by   SmilingBluEyes
    its like anything. a skill you develop w/use and time
    there are some books on the subject...ask your instructor about them..or do a search. The titles escape me. Best wishes!
  4. by   jones58
    Don't look for the obvious answers. I had an instructor who described the zebra theory; ' If you hear hoofbeats it's probably a horse, ... but it might be a zebra'. A sore throat might just be a sore throat, but it might be strep throat, etc. The human body is such a complex thing. Look at all the angles when trying to diagnose a situation. Good Luck!
  5. by   Stargazer
    I would have to strongly disagree with you there, jones58. The zebra analogy is traditionally stated as, "When you hear hoofbeats, think 'horse', not 'zebra.'" It is used to discourage medical students, in particular, from wildly extrapolating from common symptoms to arrive at rarely-seen and unlikely diagnoses. I'm afraid your instructor didn't do you or your classmates any favors by presenting it as meaning precisely the opposite of its accepted usage.


    Shopgirl, I don't know that I have the skills to teach you or anyone critical thinking--although I think my CT skills are exemplary now, I certainly didn't have them in school, and consequently sometimes I missed the obvious. I think my CT skills came when I started in ICU, where the emphasis is very much about triage, and anticipating/preparing for or heading off the "worst-case scenario."

    It helps me to think in algorithmic terms. If pt has X symptom(s), what are the most common causes of this? Do any of those causes coincide with what I know about my patient's history/condition/meds? What is the likely outcome? What is the worst-case outcome? What do I need to do to ensure this condition is properly diagnosed, ruled out, treated and the worst outcome avoided?

    Think of things in terms of: If_____, then______.
    If my patient has a low potassium, then some likely causes are: his high NG output/extra dose of Lasix he received today/failure to continue his daily home potassium supplement when he was admitted to the hospital.

    Most serious consequence would be: malignant cardiac dysrhythmias.

    Steps I therefore need to take to avoid this outcome include: reporting abnormal labs immediately to PMD, sugesting reinstituting daily K+ supplement, suggest additional dose now with repeat labs; monitor NG/urine output closely; monitor VS closely.

    Just an example, but you get the idea. Hope that was helpful. Good luck!
  6. by   memphispanda
    One thing that really helped me with critical thinking is learning to ask myself questions.

    Why am I doing this? What could cause this? What can I do about this? Is this logical? What other things could cause this? and so on...
  7. by   Tweety
    Also, I like to ask myself.."what could happen next?"

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