Critical thinking and critical thinkers have distinctive characteristics.
As indicated in the above definition, critical thinking is a conscious, outcome-oriented activity; it is purposeful and intentional.
In today’s health care arena, the nurse is faced with increasingly complex issues and situations resulting from advanced technology, greater acuity of patients in hospital and community settings, an aging population, and complex disease processes, as well as ethical and cultural factors.
Traditionally, nurses have used a problem-solving approach in planning and providing nursing care.
The critical thinker is an inquisitive, fair-minded truth seeker with an open-mindedness to the alternative solutions that might surface. The skills involved in critical thinking are developed over time through effort, practice, and experience.
Skills needed in critical thinking include interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation.
The nurse interacts with the patient, family, and other health care providers in the process of providing appropriate, individualized nursing care.
The culture, attitude, and thought processes of the nurse, the patient, and others will affect the critical thinking process from the data-gathering stage through the decision-making stage; therefore, aspects of the nurse-patient interaction must be considered.
Fonteyn asserted that exploring how these thinking strategies are used in various clinical situations, and practicing using the strategies, might assist the nurse–learner in examining and refining his or her own thinking skills.
Throughout the critical thinking process, a continuous flow of questions evolves in the thinker’s mind.