7 Tips for Nurses to Hone Critical Thinking Skills

In the nursing literature, the term critical thinking is used interchangeably with clinical decision-making and problem-solving. Problem-solving deals with the identification of oncoming issues and the development of solutions. On the other hand, critical thinking is a broader term that includes asking questions and proposing resolutions.

Nurses often work in emergencies that compel them to make critical decisions there and then. Besides physicians, nurses must have the ability to make accurate and quick decisions with responsibility and higher patient understanding. For this reason, critical thinking plays a crucial role in helping generate new ideas.

To become a critical thinker, you need to hone relevant skills like situational analysis, emotional intelligence, and so forth. Besides, these are all significant for advancing your nursing practice. So, if you are a nurse willing to boost your career, here are eight tips that will surely help you hone critical thinking skills.

1. Critical listening and reading

Both critical reading and critical listening are important for nurses. Critical thinking indicates efforts to listen to people and comprehend their point-of-view thoroughly and accurately to evaluate them appropriately. You should apply the same elements while listening to a colleague or patient critically that you would apply to your thinking. Try to assess the following points:

  • Patients’ perspectives on the issue
  • The evidence they give for their point of view
  • Assumptions they make
  • Implications of their positions

Likewise, apply the same method while reading an article, textbook, medical journal, or written text. Critical thinking and reading are often developed through higher education and practice. For this reason, nurses can enroll in an online RSN to BSN program. By gaining higher education from a well-renowned university, they can learn about real-world strategies to elicit better outcomes. So, by studying in anonline RN to BSN program, they will swiftly develop critical thinking and other essential nursing skills. As a result, it will help them promote nurse-patient relationships and effectively collaborate with other healthcare staff.

2. Be open and practice self-awareness

Broad-minded people consider the experience and knowledge of others valuable and helpful. In nursing, open-mindedness indicates readiness to learn anything from anyone and gain insight from your colleagues’ professional experiences. It is about creating and promoting an environment where you can develop necessary nursing skills, including critical thinking.

Nurses should be self-aware about their ethics, morals, beliefs, values, and thought processes. Self-awareness acquaints analysis which is crucial for critical thinking. Besides, nurses who practice self-awareness know about their weaknesses and strengths and use their mastership of self as a lodestar to help them make decisions.

3. Eliminate personal biases and avoid judgment

In the nursing profession, it is imperative to be objective. Nurses should always practice in a completely neutral mindset and eliminate judgment. Avoiding judgment will create an atmosphere where effective communication is achievable. Effective communication is a necessary component of cooperation and critical thinking in nursing care. Nurses should also try to free themselves from personal biases when on duty.

Every human develops preferences based on personal experience. When dealing with patients, you should keep your preferences aside to avoid false assumptions that can affect patients’ care negatively. Observe your thought processes and consider the ways you reach conclusions. If you identify a personal bias with someone, try to eradicate it immediately.

4. Establish priorities

Nurses work in a fast-paced environment where they have to take care of several patients simultaneously. For this reason, they should assess the situation, patients’ concerns, and tasks that they have to address daily. Here, critical thinking assists nurses in specifying functions that they need to prioritize and plan the day accordingly.

Similarly, as a nurse, learn to remain flexible even after making a priority checklist since flexibility is a highly sought-after skill.

5. Be inquisitive

It’s a prominent characteristic of critical thinking nurses that they are confident and assured while making decisions regarding patient care. So, have faith in yourself but know the difference between being confident and insensitive, and avoid intermixing them. Always be well-reasoned about whatever you do to make viable decisions and ultimately enhance patient outcomes.

It is not wrong to value tradition in nursing practice. Still, one should ensure that these traditions are relevant and valid to patient care today. Nurses can ask questions like:

  • What would happen if we followed a distinct approach to patient care?
  • How does this protocol align with the patient’s requirements at this time?”
  • Is there anything else that can improve patient outcomes?

Finding answers to such questions will add to the knowledge and help nurses think innovatively from different perspectives.

6. Do not stop learning

A single person cannot learn everything about an illness or a treatment. Nurses should be willing to concede their shortcomings. They should accept mentorship from more experienced staff and senior nurses. Moreover, they should understand that everyone can have different views and approaches to patient care and try to apply the best possible method in their practice.

Apart from that, they should never shy away from learning a new skill. Nurses who think critically know the importance of constant learning. So, to become a critical thinker in this field, you should grab every opportunity to learn new skills, ask questions, and apply current knowledge into day-to-day practice.

7. Find a mentor

There are savvies in every industry, including healthcare, so finding a mentor is not difficult. Surround yourself with experienced nurses who are an excellent source of information and knowledge. When you remain in the company of like-minded people who have more experience, you can learn many new things from them. They can even suggest tips to overcome burnout and boost your career development.

What’s more, you can learn from the mistakes they made in their career and build your strengths accordingly. For instance, a nurse who works in ICU can offer insight on how to execute critical thinking to prioritize vigilance and avoid blunders.


Critical thinking is not that difficult to hone. If you keep questioning your thought processes and assumptions while solving a problem, you’re already a critical thinker. Nurses can use this type of deliberation to make better decisions regarding their patients.

Besides, the healthcare environment is never predictable, and not a single day is the same in this industry. For this reason, it’s indispensable for nurses to build their critical thinking competencies.

Apart from pursuing higher academic programs, nurses can hone particular skills that significantly add to critical thinking capabilities. Lastly, they can consider mentorship and learn a thing or two from experienced senior nurses.

If you have any questions, please ask below!