Teaching critical thinking skills to student nurses in clinical settings

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Hermiz, Mary E.
McElhinney, James H.
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Thesis (D. Ed.)
Department of Educational Leadership
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What strategies are effective for clinical nurse instructors to use in developing critical thinking in student nurses? Many clinical strategies have been discussed in, literature, but only a few have been verified through research as to their usefulness.This study used the qualitative research methodology of multiple case studies. Participants were six clinical nurse instructors. Nursing experience ranged from 17-27 years, teaching experience involved 2-24 years. Four instructors had doctorates, one nurse had a masters degree, and the sixth nurse lacked two courses before completing a masters degree. The six instructors were from five areas of nursing: medical/surgical (beginning and intermediate level), maternity, mental health, community health and management.Each instructor was interviewed three times during the same semester, approximately two weeks apart. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Spradley's (1979) domain and taxonomic analyses were used to analyze the data.Data analysis showed that some strategies were used by all instructors, with adaptations made for the specialty. The strategies used by all instructors were questioning, nursing care plans and clinical conferences. More than one instructor used student journals, teaching projects, research articles, milieu assessments, and case studies/scenarios.This research strongly supported the use of questioning to help the student progress in critical thinking. Contrary to some research, the present research found that questioning by the instructors was not detached but was situated in the client setting which helped the student synthesize facts into a whole. The research identified many questions used by the clinical nurse instructors.Instructors identified their role in assisting students toward critical thinking as helper, facilitator, coach and guide. Instructors also identified the following characteristics as necessary to help students: caring attitude, creativity, perseverance, knowledgeable, listener, encourager and learning attitude. The instructors motivated students as they progressed in critical thinking through verbal and nonverbal rewards. Students gained self-confidence as they experienced success in their journey towards critical thinking. Implications for nursing practice are provided. The importance of this research lies in the rich depth of discovering how these strategies, roles, characteristics, and motivators assist nursing students in developing critical thinking skills in different clinical settings.2