Nursing Instructors & Critical-Thinking Skills

Nurse educators often teach evening classes to accommodate students' training schedules.

Nurse educators often teach evening classes to accommodate students' training schedules.

Nursing instructors provide academic classroom instruction and hands-on medical training, but they also use their critical-thinking skills to ensure students are adequately prepared to treat patients and work in medical environments. Book knowledge will only get you so far. A nursing educator needs problem-solving skills, the ability to make good judgment calls, time-management strengths and effective prioritization methods to succeed and flourish in the industry. Nurse educators not only need critical-thinking skills themselves but must impart those life-saving skills to their students, too.

Reasoning Rights

Nurse educators and their students must take full advantage of their reasoning capabilities. Even though the scientific approach to educating students is paramount, it's important to instill strong critical-thinking and reasoning skills. As an instructor, you might challenge and assess students' reasoning skills by not only asking "how" but stressing "why" certain methods and procedures must be incorporated into patient care. For example, you want students to set reasonable goals, offer feedback, examine medical alternatives and consider other professional viewpoints that may differ from their own. Reasoning is an important life skill that helps students learn to combine their academic knowledge with rationale, such as evaluating the pros and cons before making patient-care decisions. Nursing instructors can teach these skills by modeling them for their students.

A Balanced Approach

Nursing instructors must incorporate critical-thinking skills into their lesson plans so students learn a well-rounded, holistic approach to treating patients. For example, you might teach students to look beyond the obvious to assess issues, such as a patient's pain. Addressing a patient's inability to eat, refusal to get out of bed, frustration with medical staff, insistence on more pain medication or isolation from family members is just as important as treating the pain itself, according to the American Nurses Association. Nurse educators help students develop real-world assessment, planning, treatment and evaluation skills. Robotic skills won't get your students very far in the medical profession.

Transferrable Skills

Critical-thinking skills are transferable, so nursing instructors must help students learn to apply their logical decision-making abilities and rational troubleshooting strategies to all areas of the job. The goal is to help students make educated, sound decisions and express those decisions in understandable ways. Students must learn to critically assess information, such as medical journal articles, case studies, patient assessments and directives from other medical staff. Nurse educators help students learn to express their thoughts, methods, goals, and evaluations in clear and concise ways so others comprehend without misinterpretation or confusion.

A Willingness to Grow

Academic content and hands-on training are most valuable when nursing instructors model confidence combined with flexibility and teach students to follow similar practices, especially under difficult circumstances. You must teach your students to use their skills, knowledge, and intuition to make reflective decisions and good judgment calls based on facts, patient histories, test results and clinical findings -- even when patient recovery becomes stressful or diagnoses look bleak. It's important to help students understand it's OK to reconsider initial assessments, seek out counsel and ask questions. Open-mindedness, critical assessment, tolerance, and a passion to research advanced treatment and assessment options lead to increased self-assurance and self-awareness. Critical thinking is vital to a thriving nursing career.

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About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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