Thinking Nurse Project

In recent years, critical thinking skills have been recognized as a necessary component of nursing education. There is an obvious reason for this: health care today is a complex, high-tech environment, and bedside nurses have to make complex decisions in order to deliver safe, effective patient care. But by far, the most effective way to expand critical thinking skills is through education. However, there has been a lot less discussion about the critical thinking skills needed by senior nurses, who also must function in a highly complex environment. Many senior nurses have risen to their current positions based on their competence in a clinical role, without any formal training or experience in leadership and management skills. They somehow have to learn to think critically about unfamiliar areas like finance, budgeting, staffing, strategic planning, and quality assurance. Without critical thinking skills, nurse managers are not able to make day-to-day decisions strategically, with an eye toward advancing the goals of the organization.

Through critical thinking skills, a senior nurse can become a transformational leader. She or he can challenge assumptions, develop a more robust understanding of a problem’s underlying causes, and generate more creative solutions when using critical thinking. Without these skills, they may fall back on reactive, automatic responses to problems and miss the opportunity to make changes that are visionary and goal-driven.

To overcome this challenge, the project team has embarked on a Workplace Learning project supported by the Institute of Adult Learning (IAL) to Transform “Senior Nurses” to “Thinking Nurses” via:

  • Defining and communicating the desirable attributes and skills required to be a “Thinking Nurse” (Worker Level Intervention)
  • Providing opportunities for Senior Nurses to embrace “Critical Thinking”: for example: implement a Quality Improvement project as part of annual KWSH Quality Festival (Work Level Intervention)
  • Implementing incentives and inclusion of “Thinking Nurse” attributes/skills into performance management system in work environment for becoming “Thinking” Nurse (Workplace Level Intervention)

Thinking Nurse Toolkit