Critical Thinking: an Essential Skill in Nursing

Search for roles that require high critical thinking skills and you will discover a vast list of different professions, including nursing and other health-related careers. Ranked as a key, in-demand skill by the World Economic Forum (WEF), critical thinking is an essential skill and one that health employers will undoubtedly ask for.

Critical thinking is the ability to look at a situation and clearly understand it from multiple perspectives whilst separating facts from opinions and assumptions. Individuals who work in health-care professions – such as nurses, midwives and care staff – and possess good critical thinking skills will be able to quickly assess a situation and make decisions on the information to hand, think creatively to solve problems and assess patients needs, stay objective and actively listen to determine facts over assumptions, as well as displaying humility and curiosity; all of which helps in reaching the best outcome for patients.

The NHS Health Careers page outlines these characteristics in their advice to students looking for their first job after university. The top five skills listed there are:

  1. verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  2. evidence of critical thinking and problem solving
  3. empathetic, caring and sensitive approach to patients, relatives and carers
  4. awareness of patient dignity and respect
  5. awareness of current healthcare issues.

Stifling Critical Thinking

A recent article outlined situations where critical thinking had been stifled and the conversations that started:

  • “That’s a dumb idea.”
  • “I can’t believe your school didn’t teach you __________.”
  • “Your idea is good, but it won’t work here.”
  • “It’s too complicated so I’ll just do it and you can watch.”
  • “You spend too much time talking with your patients.”
  • “We tried that here on our unit and it didn’t work.”

Ultimately the article highlights, the importance of teaching and encouraging one another to develop and continue developing critical thinking skills, in order to provide a high level of care and on-going development.


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