Critical thinking is a multifaceted talent, a mental or cognitive process, or a set of methods. It entails investigation and analysis of all available information and ideas, as well as reasoning and purposeful, methodical, reflective, rational, outcome-directed thinking based on a body of knowledge. Conclusions and the most appropriate, often creative, decisions, options, or alternatives are reached through critical thinking (Ignatavicius, 2001; Prideaux, 2000).
Metacognition, or the study of one’s own reasoning or thought processes while thinking, is a part of critical thinking that can assist enhance and refining thinking skills (Wilkinson, 2001). A solid knowledge base and the ability to synthesize information within the context in which it is delivered a lead to independent judgments and decisions. In today’s world, nursing practice necessitates the use of advanced critical thinking abilities. Critical thinking aids clinical decision-making by assisting in the identification of patient requirements and the selection of the optimal nursing activities to help the patient satisfy those needs.
The characteristics of critical thinking and critical thinkers are distinct. Critical thinking, as stated in the description above, is a conscious, goal-oriented action that is purposeful and intentional. The critical thinker is an inquiring, fair-minded truthseeker who is open to different ideas that may present themselves.
Critical Thinking Process
Rationale and Insights
Critical thinking is methodical and structured. Critical thinking skills grow over time as a result of effort, practice, and experience. Interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation are all critical thinking skills (Ignatavicius, 2001). Background knowledge and understanding of fundamental concepts, as well as norms of good thinking, are required for critical thinking (Prideaux, 2000). The critical thinker validates the correctness of facts and the reliability of sources using reality-based thinking while being aware of and questioning inconsistencies.
Components of Critical Thinking
Key components of critical thinking can be identified as cognitive or mental activity. A person will perform the following when thinking critically:
- Ask questions to figure out why certain events occurred and whether more information is needed to fully comprehend the situation.
- Gather as much relevant data as possible in order to take into account as many variables as possible.
- Verify that the information supplied is correct (not simply speculation or opinion), that it makes sense, and that it is based on facts and evidence.
- Examine the data to understand what it means and whether it produces clusters or patterns that lead to a specific conclusion.
- Use previous clinical experience and expertise to explain what’s going on and predict what might happen next, while taking into account personal bias and cultural factors.
- Maintain a flexible mindset that allows facts to guide decision-making and considers all possibilities.
- Think about the many possibilities and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each.
- Make decisions that reflect your ingenuity and decision-making independence.
Critical Thinking in Nursing Practice
Consider the human variables that may impact the plan while using critical thinking to build a nursing care plan. In order to offer appropriate, individualized nursing care, the nurse communicates with the patient, family, and other health care providers. From the data-gathering stage through the decision-making stage, the nurse’s culture, attitude, and mental processes, among others, will influence the critical thinking process; hence, features of the nurse-patient relationship must be examined (Wilkinson, 2001). Critical thinking abilities are required of nurses in all practice contexts, including acute care, ambulatory care, extended care, and home and community care.
Fonteyn (1998) identified 12 common thought patterns utilized by nurses, irrespective of their clinical practice area:
• Recognizing a pattern
• Setting priorities
• Searching for information
• Generating hypotheses
• Making predictions
• Forming relationships
• Stating a proposition (“if–then”)
• Asserting a practice rule
• Making choices (alternative actions)
• Judging the value
• Drawing conclusions
• Providing explanations
Fonteyn also noted other less well-known thought methods that the nurse might employ:
• Posing a question
• Making assumptions (supposing)
• Making generalizations
The qualities of critical thinking and cognitive activity outlined earlier are congruent with these thought processes. Exploring how these thinking techniques are employed in various clinical scenarios, as well as practice utilizing them, according to Fonteyn, could help the nurse–learner examine and refine his or her own thinking skills. Critical thinking activities are provided throughout this book as a means of honing one’s capacity to think critically, as developing the talent of critical thinking takes time and practice. The study guide that comes with the book has additional exercises. The questions can be used as a guide to help you go through the exercises, but keep in mind that each situation is different and requires a different approach depending on the circumstances.