What are the five components of critical thinking in nursing?

Nursing is a fast-paced career where no two days or patients are ever the same. Therefore, it’s important to think and subsequently act quickly to decide the next step for each patient and scenario you deal with. Here are the five components of critical thinking, why they are important in nursing and how to develop the skills needed.

Problem recognition

Recognizing a problem is the first step in critical thinking because you can’t find a solution when you don’t realize there is a problem. As you gain more experience, you will find that anything that poses a difficulty will become more noticeable.

Gathering information efficiently will help you gain a fuller picture of the threat or any potential risks and weigh these up against your time and resources and other alternatives you could use to solve the problem. There will often be multiple solutions and the ability to think quickly, both in noticing the

problem and the likelihood of it leading to bigger issues if not dealt with immediately, can increase your success rates.

The accelerated BSN program online from Baylor University will prepare you for a career in nursing, even if your current qualification isn’t in this industry. The coursework can be completed online, and work placements are provided to help you gain hands-on experience alongside your classes.

Your qualification will improve your problem-recognition ability by teaching you about everything from nursing practices to practice standards and providing all the tools you need to build strong professional relationships with patients. These will all contribute to knowing when something isn’t right or has the potential to become problematic later.


Another key component of critical thinking in nursing is prioritization. This includes being able to identify the most important tasks and priorities to help you and your team allocate limited time and resources to those with the biggest and most immediate needs.

Being able to prioritize effectively can help nurses make better decisions, improve patient care and outcomes, and reduce stress levels. For example, when working in an emergency room, it may seem like the fairest method to see people in the order they arrive, but that approach means people with higher priority are at more risk of developing serious health complications.

There are several methods for assessing who has the greater priority, but as a qualified nurse with a professional team around you, you will need to think quickly and weigh up all the information you have.

Some teams or nurses will have specific criteria to follow, but this will be a general guide to use alongside your own judgement. No specific criteria can cover every possibility, so your discernment will be just as important.

Criteria and general guidelines for prioritizing can be adapted as and when needed to accommodate changes, rectify past mistakes or make adjustments based on suggestions for improvements.

Clinical decision-making

Clinical decision-making is the process of making decisions about patient care based on clinical data and evidence. This is an essential skill to have when you’re most likely pressed for time and action is needed imminently.

Clinical decision-making is most successful when used alongside the other four elements of critical thinking. Being able to analyze and interpret data, make inferences and evaluate options to determine the best course of action for your patients will often result in the best decisions. This doesn’t mean nothing will ever go wrong, but sometimes, particularly in nursing, there is no perfect outcome or solution.

It helps to be aware of your own biases and assumptions when making clinical decisions and to seek more information if you’re unsure whether something will help you make a more calculated decision, rather than basing these on your emotions or personal experiences. While it’s important to care about your patients professionally, it’s vital to see when personal feelings are influencing your decision. Taking a step back and trying to look at the situation from a professional standpoint will help with this.


As a nurse, it is important to be able to provide the best possible care for patients.

Making an important decision is only part of the critical thinking process – you also need to implement it. By understanding the reasons behind your own or your team’s decision, you can increase how effectively you assess patients, decide on their care and explain to them the reasons for any decisions as you implement them.

With practice and experience, you can develop your critical thinking skills and become better at providing quality patient care based on the outcomes of this.


Reflecting on your own nursing practice is essential for continued growth and development as a nurse.

It allows you to identify areas where you need to improve and develop new skills.

Additionally, reflection helps you make better decisions about patient care by considering all aspects of the situation. Reflection also helps during debriefings following difficult patient encounters and allows you and others to learn from these experiences.

You will still need to be involved in making the tough decisions, but it helps you and your employees if you understand the reasons behind them. This could protect you when faced with challenges from your superiors, family of the patients or just with your own peace of mind.

It’s important to remember that reflection can also be a way to take a step back and reflect on the positive aspects of your job, any successes and the nursing profession overall.

Critical thinking can be an acquired skill for many, but it’s crucial in nursing. Fortunately, education and experience can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to become an effective critical thinker and a better nurse.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.