As nursing students navigate the educational path to a successful nursing practice, critical thinking is a necessary component. Its use, along with creative strategies for integrating it into all aspects of nursing education, has assumed more importance than ever. In addition to better defining goals and outcomes to meet critical thinking standards within courses and programs, a shift in thinking needs to occur. As part of successful nursing education, every student must accept and proactively seek responsibility for self-integration of critical thinking processes. The use of individual information processing and learning styles enables each individual student to take an active role in successful educational outcomes. This process, which can be individually customized, makes all learning meaningful as it uses methods by which the brain processes, categorizes and associates. Each student holds the key to their own success. While a combination of many factors and strategies can be used, some take precedence and simply need to be put into practice. Essentially, there are three that serve as a starting point for using or developing others. The three basic components needed for critical thinking are:
Questions or Questions: This component not only includes what questions to ask, but also how and why you are asking them. The ability to do this is directly related to understanding, which is your knowledge base. Each student must make an honest assessment and reflect on this. Remember that all roads of theory lead to clinical practice, so question everything in this format. Creating associations and pattern recognition are important here.
Self-discipline: It should be fueled by your passion and commitment to nursing. It takes the forms of:
Adequate and meaningful study time
Use of learning style in studying and taking notes
Setting goals: daily and weekly, as well as long-term
Use a worksheet or template to organize your thinking
Take care of yourself so you can achieve your goals
Keep a positive attitude
Creativity: Being creative helps fuel your learning style and can even make the process of learning and studying more fun. Furthermore, the creative process guarantees the reinforcement of knowledge and helps you to apply it. Some ideas related to creativity (although they are limited only to your imagination) are:
Solo study sessions where you talk your notes out loud
Take notes using or thinking about descriptive sentences that connect the theory with the actions you would like to take
Studying as if you were taking the test, in other words rephrasing notes or concepts into test questions
Combining multiple visual and auditory methods of study and note taking
It’s easy to see how all of these concepts fit together and are part of each other. Each blends into the other and requires a student to have deep self-awareness. As that awareness expands to include critical thinking and the need for proactive acquisition and application of it, educational success and thus a successful transition to practice can surely follow. Mastery of this process also leads to increased confidence as well as clinical reasoning and judgment skills.