Nursing beyond simple thinking

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Many think that to be a nurse, all you are required to do is to care for the patient until returned to a complete physical health…this is the thought of a simple thinker. However, to a critical thinker a nurse provides more than just physical bedside care. As a nurse, we are to provide a happy, hygienic and comfortable place of rest to encourage a speedy return to complete holistic health. Critical thinking is a skill that takes years to develop and appreciate, and even longer to recognise, but it is something that will stick with you for life and will no doubt make you a much more interesting person than that of a simple thinker.

Simply thinking is the inability to look beyond the immediate problem and find an adequate solution. As simple thinker sees the basic side of the problem and generally the basic side of the solution. To be a nurse with this perception is said to be inadequate and close-minded, which could prove potentially dangerous to a client and the clients’ family, not to mention other colleagues too.
Contrary to this is thinking critically. Critical thinking is the process, where once mastered and practiced continually, will enable us to question everything we do as a health care professional, question everything necessary of the client and to question the working practices of our fellow colleagues. As a critical thinker, we are taught to think outside the box, we learn to prioritise cases, to be proactive- not reactive, to solve problems, to be logical, fair-minded, humble, and flexible and so on. Critical thinking is said to be controlled and purposeful, focusing on well-reasoned tactics to gain the desired results. (Alfaro-LeFevre: 2004 pp4)
To be an effective critical thinker is to be a not only a good nurse, but an excellent
HSHS 155- Jan Brown
Lauren Fitzgerald #220020667
carer/rehabilitator, great colleague and most probably an understanding and empathetic person in general.
To improve one’s skill in thinking critically one must accept the concept of thinking outside the square and also accept the fact that other people’s opinion is just if not more important than that of yourself. To improve critical thinking skills, one must be willing to make an effort, not only to become better thinkers, but also to ensure that they look outside the box in every circumstance and become creative and committed to the fine art that is critical thinking.
For me to become a better critical thinker, I believe that I will have to gain confidence in the choices and ideas that I put forward and be prepared enough to support these ideas/choices with evidence to ensure that the future outcome is a positive one. I also have to come to terms with that mistakes are unfortunate but do happen. We are only human and we do as best (as nurses) as we can to try to prevent the prevalence of errors, but they do still occur. To become an effective critical thinker I will have to be prepared to take responsibility for my actions, note that I was incorrect and have the courage to ask for help or the opinion of others. With this attitude of gaining help from others and not being to ‘cocky’ or resistant to change, hopefully this will allow me to become open minded unbiased, non-prejudicial and overall an effective and useful critical thinker.
Critical thinking, though it takes a lot of experience to ‘fine tune’, once mastered and implemented correctly, it has many advantages to you and the client in your care. As critical thinking requires that you look beyond the situation at hand and think of any situations that may arise in the unforseen future it would be wise to believe that this would drastically
HSHS 155- Jan Brown
Lauren Fitzgerald #220020667
improve the care and safety of your client, compared to just thinking simply. An improvement in critical thinking would mean that care for a client would be the uttermost priority. Improvement in critical thinking would mean that as a nurse, complex situations would be solved easier, therefore ensuring safety of the patient, and ensuring efficiency within the hospital environment. Critical thinking in nursing enables the outcome of the nursing care plan to be of a profound standard, and therefore a happier and healthier patient, which makes for a happier staff. Critical thinking also means that you are to maintain an open mind and avoid any judgment or prejudices that you may posses. An improvement in critical thinking skills will mean that any patient, no matter their race, sex, religion, cultural values or moral and ethical beliefs, will get the treatment and care that they deserve equally. No one will be treated differently because of the characteristics listed above, as treatment will be considered standardised to a critical thinker. Another improvement that would be an advantage is that as a better critical thinker, it would be easier to recognise any problems that may arise in the near future in regards to a clients’ care. For example, a man is admitted to hospital suffering a heart attack; he is required to have bypass surgery to prevent it from happening again. He is required to stay in hospital for 7 days. As his operation was quite serious, and he is quite sore, he is unable to move properly. Now a nurse with limited critical thinking skills would only think to turn the man a few times a day to prevent pressure sores from developing. A critically thinking nurse would see that in the near future, not only is there a chance that decubitus ulcers may develop, but that also his blood may be pooling, which may place his heart in even more unnecessary stress, and that range of motion exercises are necessary to prevent this. The critically thinking nurse is thinking further, more
HSHS 155- Jan Brown
Lauren Fitzgerald #220020667
‘out of the square’ than the non-critical thinker does. The critically thinking nurse would contact a physiotherapist to consult with them about the exercises that should be undertaken and how often they should be carried out. The nurse who is thinking critically in the example is thinking about many possibilities, rather than just obvious ones, therefore giving the client an improved standard of care, it is also an advantage to the hospital as prevention is better than cure, and to cure any ailments that may have resulted from his blood pooling and so forth, would have resulted in financial expenses for the hospital.
The ability to think critically is an absolute essential to become an excellent nurse. However, critical thinking can also posses a few problems that many find difficult to overcome. For me in the workplace practicing as a nurse, I believe that I will be faced with some problems as I strive to become a more efficient critical thinker. I expect that my age and limited previous experience will adversely affect my ability to become a valued critical thinker. As I am of a young age, many colleagues I expect will not take my opinions seriously or of any value. To overcome this, I must not take any of these values to heart, I must learn to become more assertive in my points of view and I can only build on my communication skills and overall, I will hopefully improve with age and experience. Another barrier that may slow me in my path to become a more efficient critical thinker is self-deception and self-doubt, i.e. not trusting my instincts enough and not trusting my judgements and decisions that I may have to make. This would become a major problem if not addressed quickly as I may be placing patients and possibly staff members at risk. To overcome this problem, I will have to improve my self-confidence in critical thinking greatly. I will have to become familiar with my work setting and feel confident and comfortable with the people I will be working with. I
HSHS 155- Jan Brown
Lauren Fitzgerald #220020667
will also have to have as much information on a patient as possible so that I can make informed decisions confident that they are right. I will also have to learn to stick with my decisions and trust that they are correct and accurate and made to the best of my ability.
Another problem that may inhibit my ability to be a more effective critical thinker is my tendency to have strong stereotypical views and I also posses the ability to be quick to judge others without knowing their situation. As these factors are apart of my personality it will take a lot of practice determination, which I am most definitely willing to do, to change these habits that I posses. Ways to overcome these behaviours is to place myself in a situation where I am most judgemental and look at the big picture. An example of this may be if I was to walk around Hyde Park and Sydney. Hyde Park is where many of the homeless take refuge for the night. Now if I was to walk around and take people at face value, then I imagine a lot of judgement of why they are homeless would fill my head. Instead of taking these unfortunate people at face value, a way to overcome my tendency to judge people quickly would be to go up to them and talk to them, to gain some insight as to why they are homeless. Therefore, as a nurse instead of taking people on face value, if I get to know them and know their situation, this will allow me to withhold any judgement or stereotypical views and allow me to become a more efficient, reliable critical thinker.
However, there can be many barriers to becoming an efficient, reliable and confident critical thinker, once practiced and mastered, the outcomes for the patient and the staff are far better than if the critical thinker did not exist.

Reference List:
-Alfaro-LeFevre, R. 2004, Critical Thinking and Clinical Judgment, Saunders, Missouri

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