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Chapter: Medical Surgical Nursing: Critical Thinking,Ethical Decision Making, and the Nursing Process

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Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a multidimensional skill, a cognitive or mental process or set of procedures.

Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a multidimensional skill, a cognitive or mental process or set of procedures. It involves reasoning and purposeful, systematic, reflective, rational, outcome-directed thinkingbased on a body of knowledge, as well as examination and analysis of all available information and ideas. Critical thinking leads tothe formulation of conclusions and the most appropriate, oftencreative, decisions, options, or alternatives (Ignatavicius, 2001;Prideaux, 2000).

Critical thinking includes metacognition, the examination of one’s own reasoning or thought processes while thinking, to help strengthen and refine thinking skills (Wilkinson, 2001). Independent judgments and decisions evolve from a sound knowledgebase and the ability to synthesize information within the contextin which it is presented. Nursing practice in today’s society mandates the use of high-level critical thinking skills within the nursing process.

Critical thinking enhances clinical decision making,helping to identify patient needs and to determine the best nursing actions that will assist the patient in meeting those needsCritical thinking and critical thinkers have distinctive characteristics. As indicated in the above definition, critical thinking isa conscious, outcome-oriented activity; it is purposeful and intentional. The critical thinker is an inquisitive, fair-minded truthseeker with an open-mindedness to the alternative solutions thatmight surface.


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