Depending on the state where you live, the tasks you can perform as an LPN vary, but you will still provide basic nursing for patients. During the course of your work, you’ll probably encounter a number of situations that require you to think through the consequences of your actions. While you will work under the supervision of an RN, you’ll still make a significant number of decisions on your own, requiring well-developed critical thinking skills.
To Guide Actions
Critical thinking is defined as the ability to apply reasoning and intellectual processes to your decisions. That ability serves as a guide to your actions that include everything from when to report changes in a patient’s blood pressure to what to do when patients won’t comply with your requests. LPNs often play the role of intermediary between the patient, doctors and family members, explaining the patient’s condition and providing home care instructions. How much you say, how you say it and how you respond to their questions requires practical thinking and thoughtful delivery.
To Follow Treatment Plans
It’s important that you follow the treatment plans devised by the attending physician and your supervising nurse. An integral part of critical thinking requires you to understand instructions when they’re given to you and to speak up when you don’t believe you have all the information you need to act appropriately. Being able to admit that you don’t understand an instruction requires a level of humility present in critical thinkers who know they don’t always have all the answers. Asking questions to clarify your instructions and your understanding is a vital component of the critical thinking you need to best serve your patients.
To Document Appropriately
As a primary care giver in a health care setting, you’ll pass on your observations to the shift of nurses following up behind you, to your supervisor and to the doctors taking care of your patients. You must be able to determine which information is important to document and what is not. You’ll have regular orders to complete, like taking and recording patients’ temperatures, blood pressure and heart rates, but you can’t write down every single word the patient spoke or every thought you may have had during your shift, so you’ve got to rely on your critical thinking skills to ensure you pass on the most vital information others need.
To Supervise Others
Very often, it’s up to you to supervise CNAs and orderlies on your floor, especially if you work in a nursing home or long-term care facility. You really need to rely on your critical thinking skills when it comes to supervising others in a medical setting because incorrect assumptions or wrong moves could lead to costly mistakes. For example, when you watch a new CNA move a patient to change the sheets on the bed, you must know when to allow her to clumsily figure out the best procedure and when to jump in and assist to prevent an injury. You’ve got to decide what you can safely delegate and which tasks you should handle yourself. You’ve got to build rapport with your staff while maintaining your authority to be an effective supervisor.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."