As nursing students journey along the educational pathway to a successful nursing practice, critical thinking is a necessary component. Its use, along with creative strategies to integrate it into all facets of nursing education has taken on more importance than ever. In addition to better defining goals and achievements for meeting critical thinking standards within courses and programs, a shift in thinking needs to occur. As part of a successful nursing education, each student must accept and proactively seek a responsibility for self-integration of critical thought processes. Use of individual information processing and learning styles allows for each and every student to take an active role in successful educational outcomes. This process, which can be individually customized, makes all learning meaningful since it employs methods through which the brain processes, categorizes and associates. Each student holds the key to his or her own success. While a combination of many factors and strategies can be utilized, certain ones take precedence and are quite simply to put into practice. In essence, there are three which serve as the launching point for use or development of additional ones. The three basic components necessary for critical thinking are:
Questioning or inquiry: this component not only includes what questions to ask, but how and why you are asking them. The ability to do this directly relates to comprehension, which is your base of knowledge. Each student needs to perform an honest appraisal about and reflection of this. Remember that all theory roads lead to clinical practice application, so question everything in this format. Association making and pattern recognition are important here.
Self- discipline: this should be fueled by your passion and commitment to nursing. It takes the forms of:
Adequate and meaningful study time
Utilization of learning style in studying and note taking
Goal setting- daily and weekly as well as for the longer term
Using a worksheet or template to organize your thinking
Taking care of yourself so that you can accomplish the goals you set
Maintaining a positive attitude
Creativity: being creative helps you to feed your learning style and can even make the learning and study process more fun. Additionally, the creative process ensures reinforcement of knowledge and assists you in applying it. Some ideas related to creativity (although they are limited only to your imaginations) are:
Solitary study sessions where you talk through your notes out loud
Taking notes using or thinking about descriptive phrases which connect theory with actions you would take
Studying as if you were taking the test- in other words reframing notes or concepts into test questions
Blending more visual and auditory methods into studying and note taking
It is easy to see how all of these concepts fit together and are part of each other. Each blends into the other and mandates that a student has an in-depth 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. Mastering this process also leads to improved confidence as well as clinical reasoning and judgment skills.
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