In nursing, critical thinking skills are related to the clinical decision-making process. Nursing critical thinking skills are a systemic, logical, reasoned approach to the nursing process which results in quality patient care. The nurse is open to intellectual reasoning and a systematic approach to problem solving. Critical thinking in nursing is an active process involving the nurse in sifting data, choosing which components are vital and then assessing and filtering to form a vital decision process. Critical thinking is a part of the nursing process which adheres to a deep commitment to maintain intellectual discipline, as well as formulating decisions based on sound judgments and logical conclusions. Critical thinking will result in excellent clinical outcomes and patient safety.
Assessing a patient requires several domains of information, and the nurse must be able to decide which pieces of information a patient offers are critical. Patient information can be complex, including elements not only of a clinical complaint but of family and culture. In a reasoned approach the nurse identifies initial priorities and based on the priorities that a patient presents, as well as the achievement of health care goals, a well-defined outcome can be accomplished.
Delegating authority and responsibility to a wide range of licensed and unlicensed staff is part of the role of a nurse. The critical thinking process provides a framework for synthesizing information about a patient in order to delegate appropriately. The goal is the continued provision of care for the best patient outcome.
Incorporating critical thinking skills also involves a reflective component. The nurse must make decisions based on sound clinical judgments, as gathered from a wide variety of sources, as well as the nurse's own observations. The reflective component is a review of those judgments and a validation of their appropriateness.
Using critical thinking also has a holistic component. The nurse regards the patient as a whole person and will base care, treatment and recovery goals upon that point of view. Data gathering from a holistic or whole person point of view requires a synthesis of judgment to prioritize goals. The whole person approach includes those elements of culture as well as institutional goals.
Using critical thinking also has an empathetic component; i.e., the ability to listen compassionately. The nurse gathers a lot of data or information regarding a patient and guides the nursing care of the patient based on observations as well as interactions. Empathetic listening will assist the nurse in determining priorities for patient care in collaboration with the patient to achieve desired patient goals.