Elevating Frontline Critical Thinking

Best Nursing Practices for Overcoming Task-Focused Tunnel Vision

In the context of an increasingly complex practice environment, this publication defines the key components of critical thinking and provides best practices for building these skills in the front line.

Executive Summary

Key forces contributing to rising care complexity

Enhancing the critical thinking skills of frontline nurses has been a longstanding concern for hospital nursing leaders, but increased complexity of care now lends renewed urgency to this challenge. Ongoing protocolization, rising patient acuity, and decreasing length of stay all contribute to an environment that can now challenge even tenured nurses long recognized as strong critical thinkers. To ensure safe patient care in today’s fast-paced environment, nurse leaders must take action to ensure frontline staff members readily see a holistic picture of their patients’ conditions.

Support individual development

To aid nurse leaders in identifying specific individual strengths and development needs, the Center offers a fully automated Critical Thinking Diagnostic Tool, which assesses individual performance across 25 critical thinking competencies. Once key critical thinking development opportunities have been identified, the Center’s Critical Thinking Toolkit can be used to elevate individual performance through the use of targeted, interactive exercises.

Build a house-wide practice environment that promotes critical thinking

In addition to addressing individual critical thinking competency, nurse leaders should implement a limited number of highly leveraged best practices to build a practice environment that supports and promotes critical thinking. These practices can be sorted into four distinct strategic approaches:

  • Communicating the intent underlying protocols,
  • Instilling recognition of key patterns,
  • Triggering peer intervention for early problem identification,
  • Ensuring learning from “safety net” activations.

After reading this study, members will learn how to:

  • Assess and elevate individual critical thinking performance
  • Communicate the intent underlying nursing protocols
  • Instill frontline nurse recognition of key patterns
  • Trigger peer intervention for early problem identification
  • Ensure learning from “safety net” activations

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