Critical thinking is not an easy concept as it is made to sound. Assessing critical thinking in nursing or any other field is a difficult feat. This is because it is difficult to determine which kind of thinking is right or wrong. Nonetheless, one can evaluate the various elements of proper thinking. These elements include the cognitive behavior or habits that are important in the critical thinking process. The assessment of critical thinking, whether done individually or for the entire nursing unit, is important because it has an influence on the patient outcomes for the nursing unit. This paper outlines a questionnaire that can be used to assess the cognitive behaviors or habits that are important to the critical thinking process. This questionnaire assesses critical thinking from a qualitative perspective.
- Have you, in your nursing profession used evidence based practice to improve patient care?
This question evaluates various cognitive habits and behaviors of the critical thinking. These cognitive behaviors and habits include inquisitiveness, creativity and the use of transforming knowledge. It is through critical thinking that the nursing staff uses the best evidence in order to transform nursing practice. In posing this question, the researcher or assessor is looking for information to the indication that the nursing staff using the best evidence to inform their practice (Rubenfeld & Scheffer, 2010).
- When faced with conflicting perspectives during nursing practice, how important is it to debate the varying perspectives?
Open mindedness and intellectual integrity are important elements of the critical thinking process. This is more so in the nursing profession where the best evidence is required to inform the nursing practice. Although it is difficult to ponder over controversial issues, especially when you hold a different viewpoint, respondents who indicate a reflection of the controversial issues later indicates intellectual integrity. In posing this question, the assessor is looking for the conviction of the nursing staff that it is important to consider varying perspectives (Rubenfeld & Scheffer, 2010).
- In order to increase the accuracy of the nursing diagnosis, how important is the use of differential diagnosis?
Differential diagnosis allows a nursing practitioner to weigh probabilities of several diseases as the cause of the patient’s aliment (Rhoads & Jensen, 2015). In eliminating the various diagnoses, the nurse is engaged in critical thinking where she considers evidence in order to determine which diagnosis is more probable. The use of this mechanism shows logical and discriminating reasoning. It also denotes confidence, intellectual integrity, contextual perspective and intuition, all which are habits of one’s mind. Nursing practitioners who are strongly convinced of the important of the differential diagnosis as a mechanism for increasing the accuracy of nursing diagnosis score higher compared to their counterparts who are not strongly convinced (Rubenfeld & Scheffer, 2010).
- How important is it to list down hunches in the course of patient care?
The listing of hunches by a nurse during patient care is not very different from suing differential diagnosis. Listing of hunches allows a nurse to list down various possibilities to be explored later. By posing this question, the assessor is looking to assess intuition, which is a very important habit of critical thinkers. When the thought processing is halted prematurely relative to hunches, nursing practitioners are more prone to making inaccurate conclusions (Rubenfeld & Scheffer, 2010).
- In the course of providing patient care, nurses should ask and answer “but what if?” questions. How true is this statement based in your nursing career?
In posing this question the assessor is interested in the ability of the nursing practitioners to transform knowledge and exhibit flexibility. Flexibility is a very important element of the critical thinking process. By answering these questions, the nursing practitioners might come up with new information regarding the delivery of care. Flexibility entails the ability of the nurse to transform knowledge and use it in the given situations (Rubenfeld & Scheffer, 2010).
- How important is the use of scenarios in the nursing practice?
The use of scenarios in nursing practice is very important. Scenarios allow nurses to consider the facts within the context of a real medical case in order to determine the nursing diagnosis and the care plan. Scenarios are effective when used in the context of nursing learning because nurses can openly discuss the scenario, thereby allowing one to learn from the others. Additionally, scenarios can be used to foster critical thinking in nurses when they are looking for best evidence to apply in different scenarios (Rubenfeld & Scheffer, 2010).
- How important to assess the potential outcomes of patient care with regards to an individual patient?
When posing this question, the assessor is concerned with the prediction abilities of the nurse in addition to the contextual perspectives of the nurse. This is an integral part of the critical thinking process. Nurses who are strongly convinced of the importance of this aspect score higher compared to their counterparts who do not think it is important to determine the potential outcomes (Rubenfeld & Scheffer, 2010).
- Has critical thinking been influential in your nursing profession?
In posing this question, the assessor seeks the opinion of the nurse with regards to the significance of the critical thinking process in the nursing profession as seen through the eyes of the nurses (Finn, 2011).
As highlighted earlier, the assessment of the critical thinking process is difficult. However, the various cognitive habits and behaviors that are part of the critical thinking process can be assessed. This paper outlined a questionnaire designed to assess these cognitive habits an behaviors in nurses.
Finn, P. (2011). Critical thinking: Knowledge and skills for evidence-based practice, Language, speech, and hearing services in schools, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (42), 69–72
Rhoads, J. & Jensen, M. (2015). Differential diagnosis for the advanced practice nurse. New York. Springer Publishing Company
Rubenfeld, M. & Scheffer, B. (2010). Critical thinking TACTICS for nurses: Achieving the IOM competencies (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.