Critical Thinking Skills as a nurse?

  1. Hey everyone who reads!
    I am a first year nursing student from VA and wondering if anyone knows any good books, websites, or any advice about critical thinking skills as a nurse. Our nursing teachers stress critical thinking skills and they base all of our tests on this. My problem is i have the discipline, motivation, and the ability to succeed in nursing but lack the test taking and critical thinking skills to become an A student. Anyone has any ideas hit me back
    Thanks! rll28
  2. Visit rll28 profile page

    About rll28

    Joined: Oct '06; Posts: 18


  3. by   anne74
    I think everyone initially has trouble with nursing exams. They're not like traditional exams (like how most questions have several correct answers and you have to pick the MOST correct one).

    In my opinion, this is very silly and not representative of critical thinking (unless you count forming an argument of why you think another answer should be the correct one). I really don't know of any books you can find on critical thinking - it's really something you develop over time with experience - even after you become a nurse.

    Pretty soon you'll start catching on to what the teachers are looking for - even if you don't personally agree with their answer. Just wait until you take the NCLEX - now there are some ridiculous questions. You'll learn what the correct answer is according to NCLEX, vs. what is done in the real world.

    Some good tips on nursing testing - learn what the priorities are. Study Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, in which you focus on the most crucial physical needs first (like the ABC's: airway, breathing & circulation), and then psychosocial and comfort care are at the top, least important spot (although we all know that these are very important too). It might be too soon now this early in your studies and it may be confusing with your school lectures/text books, but eventually think about getting an NCLEX review book in which they discuss how to prioritize nursing interventions.

    Another thing that helped me - studying material that's written for the non-medical population. Sometimes my instructors had been nurses for so long, they had a hard time explaining things from the basics. So, I would go to google or or webmd to get a good general explaination, as I was learning it for the first time.

    Lastly, get a good medical dictionary - my Tabor's medical dictionary saved me in nursing school. You could quickly find a general explanation for things.

    Good luck - and remember life as a real nurse is totally different than nursing school. Sometimes the best nurses are the ones who didn't have the highest grades. Common sense, people skills and the right attitude play a huge role in being a good nurse. Many of the students with book smarts turn out to not have the best bedside skills and can miss important things with a patient. You'll do fine. It's just very early in your career.
  4. by   777RNThatsMe
    First, you don't have to be an A student to be a good nurse like the other poster noted. Second...critical thinking in my opinion means you study your basic information...your basic facts...and then as you think it through you begin, based on your base book put together a picture of each patient. You are a look for what could happen....and what has happened .... you treat what has..(you figure it out by the "clues"...) and you prevent, hopefuly what could. So you learn to look at them as a whole system as you go on in school...with each level you think of more systems as you learn more...and so on. You will come by this as you go alone and you put more and more practice at it. Get some books on prioritization and delegation as at some point you will need those and the nclex is BIG on those. i.e who would you see first...etc. Now, you have to be able to break down what is going on with each person and then decide who takes first/second priority..but again...that comes later as you learn more and more. There isn't a key per just sort of come by it, or you don't. In my opinion you don't want to try to pass a test based on what that instructor "wants." Don't try to figure them out; waste of time, instead learn the basics that you need to know and then...use that knowledge during your tests to figure out what is going on/what may go a patient. Remember your ABC yes....but maslow never helped me. Maybe I'm odd!
  5. by   777RNThatsMe
    Quote from anne74
    IGood luck - and remember life as a real nurse is totally different than nursing school. .
    Oh boy you can say THAT again!
  6. by   elizabeth321
    critical thinking comes with experience....both life experience and other.


  7. by   Works2xs
    What I've noticed about "critical thinking" is that it's a skill most adults have been using in one capacity or another for some time. What throws people is putting putting a name to it. For some reason, it freaks people out. Equally strange is the way instructors approach the idea. They seem to treat it like it is a totally new concept that's not to be experienced outside of nursing. (Ok, ok... there ARE people for whom this is a totally new concept.. but that's a subject for a different thread...)

    Basically, all that's being asked is that you look beyond the obvious first impressions. For example: If you are a parent, you've undoubtedly found that certain situations are indicators that something is not/potentially isn't right. "Hmmm. It's been too quiet for the last 10 minutes." A non-critical thinking approach would just stop at the "quiet" part and figure all is well. The experienced parent will realize that the quiet is often assocaiated with your kid getting into something that they really shouldn't be messing with (or worse, have come to some harm that prevents them from making any noise). So based on your experience, you've put together a set of conclusions and/or possibilities that may be at play. Based on those conclusions, you then take action, collect more data, etc.

    So the skill shouldn't be all that foreign to you. The "new" part is that you'll be pulling from what you're learning in nursing-specific course work. What you're being asked to do is to make the mental connections between the patho, pharm, psych, etc. etc.

    As for testing, my experience has been that the test that you get in your typical college exam doesn't require anything more than simple recall from rote learning - decidedly uncritical thinking. (Of course, that's totally contingent upon the skill of your instructor, quality of the institution, etc.) So getting study guides for NCLEX are helpful in exposing you to the sort of questions that you're likely to encounter. Most of these guides also include the rationale in how the answer was arrived at. Do the question, run through the rationale in your own mind, and then compare it to the rationale that the test developer used. Then... do a truck-load of those questions to get used to thinking of questions in the terms you are likely to see on the test.

    It's not easy. But neither is it impossible.