What is Critical Thinking in Nursing? (With Examples, Importance, & How to Improve)

critical thinking activity for nursing students

Successful nursing requires learning several skills used to communicate with patients, families, and healthcare teams. One of the most essential skills nurses must develop is the ability to demonstrate critical thinking. If you are a nurse, perhaps you have asked if there is a way to know how to improve critical thinking in nursing? As you read this article, you will learn what critical thinking in nursing is and why it is important. You will also find 18 simple tips to improve critical thinking in nursing and sample scenarios about how to apply critical thinking in your nursing career.

What Is Critical Thinking In Nursing?

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• Ask relevant questions • Justify opinions • Address and evaluate multiple points of view • Explain assumptions and reasons related to your choice of patient care options

5. Can I Be a Nurse If I Cannot Think Critically?

critical thinking activity for nursing students

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Developing Critical-Thinking Skills in Student Nurses

April 8, 2020

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Nurse educators should ensure that students can incorporate critical thinking skills into everyday practice.

Critical thinking skills for nurses include problem-solving and the ability to evaluate situations and make recommendations. Done correctly, critical thinking results in positive patient outcomes, Srinidhi Lakhanigam, an RN-BSN, said in a Minority Nurse article.

“Critical thinking is the result of a combination of innate curiosity; a strong foundation of theoretical knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, disease processes, and normal and abnormal lab values; and an orientation for thinking on your feet,” Lakhanigam said in “Critical Thinking: A Vital Trait for Nurses.” “Combining this with a strong passion for patient care will produce positive patient outcomes. The critical thinking nurse has an open mind and draws heavily upon evidence-based research and past clinical experiences to solve patient problems.”

Since the 1980s, critical thinking has become a widely discussed component of nurse education, and a significant factor for National League for Nursing (NLN) nursing school accreditation. Nursing school curriculum is expected to teach students how to analyze situations and develop solutions based on high-order thinking skills. For nurse educators who are responsible for undergraduate and graduate learners , teaching critical thinking skills is crucial to the future of healthcare.

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

A landmark 1990 study found critical thinkers demonstrate similar characteristics. The Delphi Report by the American Philosophical Association (APA) identified these cognitive skills common to critical thinkers:


Critical thinkers are able to categorize and decode the significance and meaning of experiences, situations, data, events, and rules, among others.

Critical thinkers can examine varying ideas, statements, questions, descriptions and concepts and analyze the reasoning.

Critical thinkers consider relevant information from evidence to draw conclusions.


Critical thinkers state the results of their reasoning through sound arguments.


Critical thinkers monitor their cognitive abilities to reflect on their motivations and correct their mistakes.

In addition, critical thinkers are well-informed and concerned about a wide variety of topics. They are flexible to alternative ideas and opinions and are honest when facing personal biases. They have a willingness to reconsider their views when change is warranted.

In nursing, critical thinking and clinical reasoning are inextricably linked, columnist Margaret McCartney said in the BMJ . While experienced nurses are able to make sound clinical judgements quickly and accurately, novice nurses find the process more difficult, McCartney said in “Nurses must be allowed to exercise professional judgment.”

“Therefore, education must begin at the undergraduate level to develop students’ critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills,” McCartney said. “Clinical reasoning is a learnt skill requiring determination and active engagement in deliberate practice design to improve performance. In order to acquire such skills, students need to develop critical thinking ability, as well as an understanding of how judgments and decisions are reached in complex healthcare environments.”

Teaching Critical Thinking to Nurses

In 2015, a study in the Journal of College Teaching & Learning found a positive correlation between critical thinking skills and success in nursing school. The study said, “It is the responsibility of nurse educators to ensure that nursing graduates have developed the critical thinking abilities necessary to practice the profession of nursing.”

To help new nurses develop critical-thinking skills, the professional development resources provider Lippincott Solutions recommended nurse educators focus on the following in the classroom:

Promoting interactions

Collaboration and learning in group settings help nursing students achieve a greater understanding of the content.

Asking open-ended questions

Open-ended questions encourage students to think about possible answers and respond without fear of giving a “wrong” answer.

Providing time for students to reflect on questions

Student nurses should be encouraged to deliberate and ponder questions and possible responses and understand that perhaps the immediate answer is not always the best answer.

Teaching for skills to transfer

Educators should provide opportunities for student nurses to see how their skills can apply to various situations and experiences.

In the Minority Nurse article, Lakhanigam also said students who thirst for knowledge and understanding make the best critical thinkers. The author said novice nurses who are open to constructive criticism can learn valuable lessons that will translate into successful practice.

At the same time, however, critical thinking skills alone will not ensure success in the profession , Lakhanigam said in the article. Other factors count as well.

“A combination of open-mindedness, a solid foundational knowledge of disease processes, and continuous learning, coupled with a compassionate heart and great clinical preceptors, can ensure that every new nurse will be a critical thinker positively affecting outcomes at the bedside,” Lakhanigam said.

Another element that ensures success as both an educator and student is earning a nursing degree from a school that focuses on student accomplishments. At Duquesne University’s School of Nursing, students learn best practices in healthcare. The online master’s in nursing program prepares educators to train the next generation of nurses.

About Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program

Duquesne University’s MSN curriculum for the Nursing Education and Faculty Role program focuses on preparing registered nurses (RNs) for careers as nurse educators. Students enrolled in the online master’s in nursing program learn the skills needed in the classroom and for clinical training. RNs learn how to empower student nurses to work to their fullest potential.

The MSN program is presented entirely online, so RNs can pursue their career goals and continue personal responsibilities simultaneously.  Duquesne University has been recognized for excellence in education as a U.S. News & World Report Best Online Graduate Nursing Program and best among Roman Catholic universities in the nation.

For more information, contact Duquesne University today.

Critical Thinking: A Vital Trait for Nurses: Minority Nurse

Consensus Descriptions of Core CT Skills And Sub-Skills: Delphi

Margaret McCartney: Nurses must be allowed to exercise professional judgment: BMJ

Predicting Success in Nursing Programs: Journal of College Teaching & Learning

Turning New Nurses Into Critical Thinkers: Wolters Kluwer

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Fun Critical Thinking Activities for Nursing Students

critical thinking activity for nursing students

Medical courses are popular for their complexity and demanding nature. For your everyday student fighting to pay tuition, rent, food, and loans, pursuing a career in the field can be a nightmare. Those who’ve made the journey understand the importance of critical thinking for nursing students. Every facet of the course requires thorough analysis and logical engagement. Nonetheless, educators can intervene to make the journey fun and memorable by introducing exciting activities into the classroom. Below are 10 projects to consider in your classroom.

The Importance of Critical Thinking for Nursing Students

There’s no denying that critical thinking is of utmost importance for nursing students. Well, no professional field would survive without analytical skills. But nursing is about people’s well-being, which makes the practice even more sacred. Below are a few reasons why critical thinking is essential to the practice:

Patient safety

The primary role of a RN is to care for their patients. But this isn’t always the case. Some nurses, e.g., Charles Cullen, have committed atrocities against their patients. Many others have harmed their patients unintentionally or due to negligence. In the medical field, the consequences of a wrong decision can be severe. As such, we need our nurses to be on top of their game. They must possess necessary critical thinking skills to identify potential risks and avert or remedy them.

Clinical judgment

Unlike popular opinion, the role of nurses isn’t limited to administering drugs and caring for them. There are many scenarios that demand clinical judgments, e.g., evaluating symptoms and making a diagnosis, deciding on appropriate medication dosage, recognizing signs of an allergic reaction, etc. These are delicate and life-defining matters that demand critical thinking skills.

Ethical decision-making

Nothing is as demanding as making an ethical decision. The dilemma involved can make or break even the best nurses. In training, they’re often advised to make the decisions they can live with, and in the best interest of their patients. We hope you can see the catch. Whatever the situation, such cases require weighing different ethical principles, values, and perspectives, making them almost impossible to deal with. Handling critical thinking questions during training can make it a bit easier.  

Completing course assignments

All medical courses have a heavy workload of assignments, practicals, and clinical placements. If you add personal life requirements, it becomes almost impossible to handle. In some courses, students handle voluminous works that require days and weeks of reading. The vastness aside, you must be smart to understand the terminology and concepts in nursing. This is where most students fail. However, there’s no cause for alarm. You can always seek help when stranded with your essays and dissertations. There are reputable companies that specialize in nursing writing that can come through on short notice. WriteMyPaperHub , for instance, has very creative and highly trained PhD writers in nursing and medicine who can deliver complex papers within the deadline you need.

Stimulating the Mind: 10 Fun Critical Thinking Activities for Nursing Students

There are several fun critical thinking activities for nursing students to consider. However, many can be costly, time-consuming, or too demanding. For an ordinary classroom, group activities should be simple and interesting. Here, we’ve assembled 10 activities and critical thinking games for nursing students.

1. Case studies

Nursing is a very practical course. As such, any opportunity to explore real-life patient scenarios is highly welcome. This exercise provides just that. Students can organize themselves into small groups and tackle a problem, for example, examine a wound, identify its probable causes, and propose how to treat it.

There’s no better way of sharpening your critical thinking skills than through open discourses. Let your students disagree to agree, for they will gain so much more from being corrected by their peers than rote memorization. Therefore, occasionally pick a controversial or ethical topic and let them debate on it. Just ensure that the engagement is structured for maximum impact.    

3. Reflection journals

Journals can be a student’s best companion. Medical courses can be demanding, putting undue pressure on college students. However, with proper planning and focus, dedicated persons are likely to make it through. A diary can help you organize yourself, appreciate the difficulties you’ve overcome, reflect on your clinical experiences, and motivate you to keep pushing. But keeping it isn’t enough. You must read and reflect on your journey if you’re to stay on track.

4. Simulation exercises

Advances in technology have significantly impacted medical training. For instance, Virtual Reality (VR) is helping instructors to deliver realistic scenarios to their learners remotely. Imagine creating and sharing realistic images of viruses, pathogens, or sick people with your learners and asking them to explore them under pressure and deliver a verdict. It’s like being in the lab!

5. Critical thinking worksheets

Also commonly referred to as critical thinking flow sheets, this activity can be instrumental in testing students’ abilities. It’s a step-by-step process involving clinical scenarios that require extensive research. Here, learners are supposed to gather data on a specific issue, analyze it carefully, and arrive at a diagnosis. It’s a thorough process that employs logic and problem-solving skills.

6. Role-playing

Nursing schools don’t train nurses to be just subordinates. Their curriculum entails everything about patient care and simple diagnosis. In fact, in remote areas with no clinicians, they’re the doctors of the day. Their instructors can organize scenarios that expose them to such situations and let them act as the physicians in charge. They can also act as other people in the healthcare team, e.g., clerks, therapists, and pharmacists. Organizing such critical thinking activities can enhance their preparation and training.

7. Flipped classroom

Even though nursing is quite hands-on, its trainers can deliver their courses and instructions remotely. A flipped classroom is a dynamic approach to learning that allows students to explore their materials at home. Technological advances have made it possible for remote collaboration, making this one of the most enjoyable and fun activities.

8. Group discussions

Unlike debates that pit groups and individuals against each other, group discussions are less confrontational, making them ideal for younger learners. These setups are also suitable for discussing ethical dilemmas. While it’s often hard to find common ground for such issues, challenging assumptions are critical for nursing practice.

9. Decision-making games

The life of a nurse involves making numerous critical decisions. Some of these big resolutions require an instant response. This requires rigorous training. Trainers can use board games, for instance, to pressure students into making healthcare-related decisions fast. This can help them in making informed choices under pressure.

10. Mind mapping

You can introduce this activity as a visual instrument for arranging, generating, and investigating ideas and the links between different nursing concepts.

Critical Thinking for Critical Patient Support!

Nurses are the pillars that hold the healthcare system together. However, their services are only as good as their training and abilities. If we want the best out of our nurses, we must sharpen their critical thinking skills and make them ready for service. In this short article, we’ve explored a few activities that can help nursing trainees develop critical thinking skills essential for their future roles as healthcare professionals.

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The Value of Critical Thinking in Nursing

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN

  • How Nurses Use Critical Thinking
  • How to Improve Critical Thinking
  • Common Mistakes

Male nurse checking on a patient

Some experts describe a person’s ability to question belief systems, test previously held assumptions, and recognize ambiguity as evidence of critical thinking. Others identify specific skills that demonstrate critical thinking, such as the ability to identify problems and biases, infer and draw conclusions, and determine the relevance of information to a situation.

Nicholas McGowan, BSN, RN, CCRN, has been a critical care nurse for 10 years in neurological trauma nursing and cardiovascular and surgical intensive care. He defines critical thinking as “necessary for problem-solving and decision-making by healthcare providers. It is a process where people use a logical process to gather information and take purposeful action based on their evaluation.”

“This cognitive process is vital for excellent patient outcomes because it requires that nurses make clinical decisions utilizing a variety of different lenses, such as fairness, ethics, and evidence-based practice,” he says.

How Do Nurses Use Critical Thinking?

Successful nurses think beyond their assigned tasks to deliver excellent care for their patients. For example, a nurse might be tasked with changing a wound dressing, delivering medications, and monitoring vital signs during a shift. However, it requires critical thinking skills to understand how a difference in the wound may affect blood pressure and temperature and when those changes may require immediate medical intervention.

Nurses care for many patients during their shifts. Strong critical thinking skills are crucial when juggling various tasks so patient safety and care are not compromised.

Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D., RN, is a nurse educator with a clinical background in surgical-trauma adult critical care, where critical thinking and action were essential to the safety of her patients. She talks about examples of critical thinking in a healthcare environment, saying:

“Nurses must also critically think to determine which patient to see first, which medications to pass first, and the order in which to organize their day caring for patients. Patient conditions and environments are continually in flux, therefore nurses must constantly be evaluating and re-evaluating information they gather (assess) to keep their patients safe.”

The COVID-19 pandemic created hospital care situations where critical thinking was essential. It was expected of the nurses on the general floor and in intensive care units. Crystal Slaughter is an advanced practice nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU) and a nurse educator. She observed critical thinking throughout the pandemic as she watched intensive care nurses test the boundaries of previously held beliefs and master providing excellent care while preserving resources.

“Nurses are at the patient’s bedside and are often the first ones to detect issues. Then, the nurse needs to gather the appropriate subjective and objective data from the patient in order to frame a concise problem statement or question for the physician or advanced practice provider,” she explains.

Top 5 Ways Nurses Can Improve Critical Thinking Skills

We asked our experts for the top five strategies nurses can use to purposefully improve their critical thinking skills.

Case-Based Approach

Slaughter is a fan of the case-based approach to learning critical thinking skills.

In much the same way a detective would approach a mystery, she mentors her students to ask questions about the situation that help determine the information they have and the information they need. “What is going on? What information am I missing? Can I get that information? What does that information mean for the patient? How quickly do I need to act?”

Consider forming a group and working with a mentor who can guide you through case studies. This provides you with a learner-centered environment in which you can analyze data to reach conclusions and develop communication, analytical, and collaborative skills with your colleagues.

Practice Self-Reflection

Rhoads is an advocate for self-reflection. “Nurses should reflect upon what went well or did not go well in their workday and identify areas of improvement or situations in which they should have reached out for help.” Self-reflection is a form of personal analysis to observe and evaluate situations and how you responded.

This gives you the opportunity to discover mistakes you may have made and to establish new behavior patterns that may help you make better decisions. You likely already do this. For example, after a disagreement or contentious meeting, you may go over the conversation in your head and think about ways you could have responded.

It’s important to go through the decisions you made during your day and determine if you should have gotten more information before acting or if you could have asked better questions.

During self-reflection, you may try thinking about the problem in reverse. This may not give you an immediate answer, but can help you see the situation with fresh eyes and a new perspective. How would the outcome of the day be different if you planned the dressing change in reverse with the assumption you would find a wound infection? How does this information change your plan for the next dressing change?

Develop a Questioning Mind

McGowan has learned that “critical thinking is a self-driven process. It isn’t something that can simply be taught. Rather, it is something that you practice and cultivate with experience. To develop critical thinking skills, you have to be curious and inquisitive.”

To gain critical thinking skills, you must undergo a purposeful process of learning strategies and using them consistently so they become a habit. One of those strategies is developing a questioning mind. Meaningful questions lead to useful answers and are at the core of critical thinking .

However, learning to ask insightful questions is a skill you must develop. Faced with staff and nursing shortages , declining patient conditions, and a rising number of tasks to be completed, it may be difficult to do more than finish the task in front of you. Yet, questions drive active learning and train your brain to see the world differently and take nothing for granted.

It is easier to practice questioning in a non-stressful, quiet environment until it becomes a habit. Then, in the moment when your patient’s care depends on your ability to ask the right questions, you can be ready to rise to the occasion.

Practice Self-Awareness in the Moment

Critical thinking in nursing requires self-awareness and being present in the moment. During a hectic shift, it is easy to lose focus as you struggle to finish every task needed for your patients. Passing medication, changing dressings, and hanging intravenous lines all while trying to assess your patient’s mental and emotional status can affect your focus and how you manage stress as a nurse .

Staying present helps you to be proactive in your thinking and anticipate what might happen, such as bringing extra lubricant for a catheterization or extra gloves for a dressing change.

By staying present, you are also better able to practice active listening. This raises your assessment skills and gives you more information as a basis for your interventions and decisions.

Use a Process

As you are developing critical thinking skills, it can be helpful to use a process. For example:

  • Ask questions.
  • Gather information.
  • Implement a strategy.
  • Evaluate the results.
  • Consider another point of view.

These are the fundamental steps of the nursing process (assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate). The last step will help you overcome one of the common problems of critical thinking in nursing — personal bias.

Common Critical Thinking Pitfalls in Nursing

Your brain uses a set of processes to make inferences about what’s happening around you. In some cases, your unreliable biases can lead you down the wrong path. McGowan places personal biases at the top of his list of common pitfalls to critical thinking in nursing.

“We all form biases based on our own experiences. However, nurses have to learn to separate their own biases from each patient encounter to avoid making false assumptions that may interfere with their care,” he says. Successful critical thinkers accept they have personal biases and learn to look out for them. Awareness of your biases is the first step to understanding if your personal bias is contributing to the wrong decision.

New nurses may be overwhelmed by the transition from academics to clinical practice, leading to a task-oriented mindset and a common new nurse mistake ; this conflicts with critical thinking skills.

“Consider a patient whose blood pressure is low but who also needs to take a blood pressure medication at a scheduled time. A task-oriented nurse may provide the medication without regard for the patient’s blood pressure because medication administration is a task that must be completed,” Slaughter says. “A nurse employing critical thinking skills would address the low blood pressure, review the patient’s blood pressure history and trends, and potentially call the physician to discuss whether medication should be withheld.”

Fear and pride may also stand in the way of developing critical thinking skills. Your belief system and worldview provide comfort and guidance, but this can impede your judgment when you are faced with an individual whose belief system or cultural practices are not the same as yours. Fear or pride may prevent you from pursuing a line of questioning that would benefit the patient. Nurses with strong critical thinking skills exhibit:

  • Learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of other nurses
  • Look forward to integrating changes that improve patient care
  • Treat each patient interaction as a part of a whole
  • Evaluate new events based on past knowledge and adjust decision-making as needed
  • Solve problems with their colleagues
  • Are self-confident
  • Acknowledge biases and seek to ensure these do not impact patient care

An Essential Skill for All Nurses

Critical thinking in nursing protects patient health and contributes to professional development and career advancement. Administrative and clinical nursing leaders are required to have strong critical thinking skills to be successful in their positions.

By using the strategies in this guide during your daily life and in your nursing role, you can intentionally improve your critical thinking abilities and be rewarded with better patient outcomes and potential career advancement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Critical Thinking in Nursing

How are critical thinking skills utilized in nursing practice.

Nursing practice utilizes critical thinking skills to provide the best care for patients. Often, the patient’s cause of pain or health issue is not immediately clear. Nursing professionals need to use their knowledge to determine what might be causing distress, collect vital information, and make quick decisions on how best to handle the situation.

How does nursing school develop critical thinking skills?

Nursing school gives students the knowledge professional nurses use to make important healthcare decisions for their patients. Students learn about diseases, anatomy, and physiology, and how to improve the patient’s overall well-being. Learners also participate in supervised clinical experiences, where they practice using their critical thinking skills to make decisions in professional settings.

Do only nurse managers use critical thinking?

Nurse managers certainly use critical thinking skills in their daily duties. But when working in a health setting, anyone giving care to patients uses their critical thinking skills. Everyone — including licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and advanced nurse practitioners —needs to flex their critical thinking skills to make potentially life-saving decisions.

Meet Our Contributors

Portrait of Crystal Slaughter, DNP, APRN, ACNS-BC, CNE

Crystal Slaughter, DNP, APRN, ACNS-BC, CNE

Crystal Slaughter is a core faculty member in Walden University’s RN-to-BSN program. She has worked as an advanced practice registered nurse with an intensivist/pulmonary service to provide care to hospitalized ICU patients and in inpatient palliative care. Slaughter’s clinical interests lie in nursing education and evidence-based practice initiatives to promote improving patient care.

Portrait of Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D., RN

Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D., RN

Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a nurse educator and freelance author and editor. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Rhoads earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students. Her clinical background includes surgical-trauma adult critical care, interventional radiology procedures, and conscious sedation in adult and pediatric populations.

Portrait of Nicholas McGowan, BSN, RN, CCRN

Nicholas McGowan, BSN, RN, CCRN

Nicholas McGowan is a critical care nurse with 10 years of experience in cardiovascular, surgical intensive care, and neurological trauma nursing. McGowan also has a background in education, leadership, and public speaking. He is an online learner who builds on his foundation of critical care nursing, which he uses directly at the bedside where he still practices. In addition, McGowan hosts an online course at Critical Care Academy where he helps nurses achieve critical care (CCRN) certification.

Creative Ways to Enhance and Assess Critical Thinking in Nursing Students


  • 1 About the Author Kimberly C. Parker, DNP, RN, is a clinical instructor, University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. For more information, contact her at [email protected].
  • PMID: 34107521
  • DOI: 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000830

Nursing students should be challenged to implement critical thinking decisions regarding conclusions they implement for patient care. This article reinforces common techniques and introduces new practices to teach critical thinking. Many ways are currently recognized utilizing an assortment of techniques. The concepts from an escape room are a great way to deliver opportunities for students to practice this skill and can be provided economically and easily. Being creative in managing these concepts will offer an exciting chance to introduce critical thinking for your students.

Copyright © 2021 National League for Nursing.

  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate*
  • Students, Nursing*

10 Engaging Online Nursing Games for Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills

critical thinking activity for nursing students

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Online nursing games offer an engaging way to tackle the rigors of nursing education. Meticulously designed to simulate real-world clinical scenarios, they offer a way for nursing students and professionals to develop and refine crucial skills. From mastering complex medical procedures to managing healthcare crises, these games serve as a bridge between theoretical knowledge and practical application, crucial for a successful nursing career.

The ten games listed below are not only serious games but also entertaining, providing a balance that makes the learning process more enjoyable and effective. They encompass a broad spectrum of nursing competencies, including critical thinking, clinical judgment, diagnostic proficiency, and effective communication within medical teams. These digital resources also support NCLEX exam preparation and continuous professional development, ensuring nurses are equipped to meet the challenges of modern healthcare environments.

10 Serious Online Nursing Games 

1. The Nobel Prize Blood Typing Game

In the healthcare field, registered nurses (RNs) play a crucial role in performing blood transfusions accurately and safely. To help nurses develop their skills in blood typing and transfusion procedures, an online game is available. This interactive game allows nurses to practice blood typing and learn how to perform safe blood transfusions, ultimately improving their abilities in a clinical setting.

2. SkillStat ECG Simulator

Nurses working in critical care environments need to possess strong ECG knowledge for effective monitoring and response. SkillStat's Six Second ECG Simulator is a free online game that allows nurses to explore and identify 27 common cardiac rhythms. It's a convenient and valuable tool for practicing and improving ECG interpretation skills.

3. Flow of Blood Through the Heart

It’s imperative for nurses to know the blood flow throughout the heart so that they can comprehend cardiac diseases, such as heart failure. In this game, users trace the flow of a drop of blood through the heart, starting from systemic entry to systemic outlet.

4. UbiSim Immersive Virtual Reality (VR)

Nursing games online, particularly those utilizing virtual reality (VR) technology, offer numerous benefits for nursing students. These games enhance clinical judgment, provide a realistic learning environment, and aid in NCLEX preparation. UbiSim is a leading virtual reality platform specifically designed for nursing education, offering immersive scenarios and interactive features. By embracing these innovative educational tools, nursing programs can empower their students with the knowledge and skills necessary for their future clinical practice.

5. Prognosis: Your Diagnosis

Nurses should be prepared to know the major diagnoses of their patients, to detect, report, and document changes in patients' condition. With Prognosis, you can improve your ability to diagnose and immediately manage key clinical presentations associated with a disease, having access to relevant facts and succinct explanations.

6. Pixel Hospital

While you play a head doctor in the game, it’s relevant to nursing professionals because a wild epidemic has hit the city, and the hospital is now teeming with patients. You have to use limited staff, resources, and equipment. Much like real clinical practice, it's your duty to nurse as many patients as possible back to health. 

7. Plague Inc.

Nurses need to be aware of infectious diseases and how they spread. Plague Inc. is a unique mix of high strategy and terrifyingly realistic simulation. A pathogen has just infected 'Patient Zero.' Now, you must bring about the end of human history by evolving a deadly, global Plague whilst adapting against everything humanity can do to defend itself.

8. Nursing Sim

Critical thinking skills are crucial for nurses. This is a mobile game to help nursing students practice the multifactor decision-making process of nurse assignment, which includes accurately recognizing nurse competency, assessing patient acuity, and determining how to equitably delegate which patients each nurse sees on a shift. 

9. Medical Abbreviations

It may seem like alphabet soup at first, but being able to memorize medical abbreviations allows for quick, accurate documentation of patient information and facilitates efficient communication between care team members. This game enables you to do flashcards or play a matching game.

10. Med Mnemonics

Mnemonics are short little rhymes or phrases that make nursing terms (or anything you're studying) easier to remember. There are so many terms to memorize as healthcare professionals, so nursing students can use this to make their memory stick. 

Final Thoughts

By incorporating these engaging and entertaining games into nursing education, students can not only improve their skills but also enjoy the learning process. Whether it's practicing blood typing, interpreting ECGs, understanding cardiac flow, or developing diagnostic abilities, these online nursing games are valuable tools for enhancing nursing practice and ensuring that nurses are well-prepared for the challenges of modern healthcare environments.

As an integral center of UbiSim's content team, Ginelle pens stories on the rapidly changing landscape of VR in nursing simulation. Ginelle is committed to elevating the voices of practicing nurses, nurse educators, and program leaders who are making a difference.

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critical thinking activity for nursing students

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critical thinking activity for nursing students

9 Fun and Educational Nursing Games

Nursing is an extremely challenging and stressful job. You’ll need to spend most of your day caring for patients and making sure that they get their medications and treatment on time. You’ll also need to assess them routinely to make sure nothing bad happens to them while they are under your care.

If you fail to unwind once in a while, you can end up with burnout that can easily make you want to leave the profession. Now, before that happens, try out a few nursing games .

Below is a really handy list of games that aren’t just educational but fun, too.

9 Fun and Educational Nursing Games

Fun and Educational Nursing Games

1. prognosis: your diagnosis.

If you’re always getting a busy shift but still want to brush up your critical thinking skills while on the go, then Prognosis: Your Diagnosis shouldn’t be out of your list of nursing games. This app can help you assess your knowledge about diseases, test your clinical knowledge, and apply what you know in a risk-free environment.

The game presents engaging scenarios that will really test you out as a nurse. Available on iOS devices, this game is designed for busy people like you.

2. Study Shack

Study Shack features more than 1,000 words and terms that nurses should know. Choose from crosswords, unscramble, and more.

Learning new words can be painful and hard. But this educational game will take both away because it is fun to play and goes from simple nursing words and terms to harder ones.

3. RNtertainment

  • Traditional game board format  gives you the flexibility to create a competitive group atmosphere with fellow students/ colleagues, or to review on your own.
  • Clinical questions and scenarios covering all the major nursing categories  provide an engaging review alternative to fully prepare you for the NCLEX® exam.
  • Hundreds of challenging questions and rationales  from student-favorite NCLEX® exam expert  Linda Silvestri  reflect content on the latest NCLEX® test-plan.

RNtertainment: The NCLEX® Examination Review Game

RNtertainment has a lot of topics that will really challenge you. Its topics include Safe and Effective Care Management, Health Promotion, and so much more.

It comes in a traditional game format which can give you the opportunity to create a competitive atmosphere for you and your colleagues. It has over 800 questions that aren’t only educational but engaging, too.

The questions vary in format. You can encounter multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, and prioritizing types of questions. These are all great if you’re preparing for an exam, like the NCLEX. You can also find rationales in a separate book so you’ll be properly guided in playing the game.

4. Infection

Infection is all about diseases and medicine. Two to eight players can start the game with 5 disease cards and $500. Those disease cards contain causes, treatments, and symptoms of about 80 medical conditions.

You can pass them to your neighbors, leave them in public places, or get them treated by a Voodoo doctor. The first one to be disease-free and healthy wins the game.

5. Medical Monopoly

Medical Monopoly Board Game - 1979 Edition

If you aren’t into apps and mobile games, then try Medical Monopoly . This board game is best played with your co-nurses during your day off or whenever you need to take a break and relax.

The game resembles the way modern healthcare works in that you need to compete with other hospitals to get the most number of patients. With $500 to start with, you’ll need to buy organs and perform transplant operations. You’ll need to properly diagnose patients, too.

6. Role-Playing

Role-playing is one of the best nursing games you should try if you are teaching nursing students. It’s interactive and encourages students to be more active and involved.

For example, you can group students into groups of two or three. Ask each student to assume a role. It can be a difficult patient, doctor, or relative. Instruct them to act out a common scenario in the hospital that can challenge a nurse’s skill or patience.

7. Quarantine

  • Ages 13 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Playable in about 60 minutes

Quarantine Board Game

Quarantine is another board game where you need to build the biggest and most effective hospital while making sure patients and doctors are well attended to. It’s a form of a tile-laying game where you need to acquire the most number of tiles by beating other players.

Take note that there are highly contagious patients that can spread infections and shut down your hospital.

8. Pixel Hospital

Time management is critical skill nurses have to master if they want to be successful in their chosen profession. This is exactly where Pixel Hospital can help you.

The game puts you in charge of a busy ER attending to the victims of a pandemic that has hit the city. Being in charge, you need to utilize all the resources, staff, and equipment to make sure every patient gets attended to.

9. Trust Walk

Technically, this game won’t test out a nurse’s knowledge or skills. Instead, it can teach you about trusting your co-workers.

Surviving a busy shift when you’re alone won’t be easy. You’ll need help from your colleagues to ensure that you get all your tasks done and that all patients are safe and properly treated.

For Trust Walk, you’ll need a large room, chairs, traffic cones, and small blocks. Create groups of two. One player needs to go through the course blindfolded as his partner guides him with verbal cues.

Bonus: Nurse Bingo

A hectic shift can really do a number on morale. You can liven up your shift with a fun game of bingo. Download your free nurse bingo card here .

Nurse Bingo

Download Nurse Bingo

  • 11 Super Awesome Apps for Nurses
  • A Guide to the Most Useful Free Nursing Apps
  • 10 Useful Apps for Medical Students

Download Nurse Bingo Today!

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Liven up any shift with a fun game of bingo. See who can fill a row first! Fill a whole card and lose grip with reality.

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About The Author

Brittney wilson, bsn, rn, related posts.

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Teaching Strategies for Developing Clinical Reasoning Skills in Nursing Students: A Systematic Review of Randomised Controlled Trials

Associated data.

Data are contained within the article.

Background: Clinical reasoning (CR) is a holistic and recursive cognitive process. It allows nursing students to accurately perceive patients’ situations and choose the best course of action among the available alternatives. This study aimed to identify the randomised controlled trials studies in the literature that concern clinical reasoning in the context of nursing students. Methods: A comprehensive search of PubMed, Scopus, Embase, and the Cochrane Controlled Register of Trials (CENTRAL) was performed to identify relevant studies published up to October 2023. The following inclusion criteria were examined: (a) clinical reasoning, clinical judgment, and critical thinking in nursing students as a primary study aim; (b) articles published for the last eleven years; (c) research conducted between January 2012 and September 2023; (d) articles published only in English and Spanish; and (e) Randomised Clinical Trials. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tool was utilised to appraise all included studies. Results: Fifteen papers were analysed. Based on the teaching strategies used in the articles, two groups have been identified: simulation methods and learning programs. The studies focus on comparing different teaching methodologies. Conclusions: This systematic review has detected different approaches to help nursing students improve their reasoning and decision-making skills. The use of mobile apps, digital simulations, and learning games has a positive impact on the clinical reasoning abilities of nursing students and their motivation. Incorporating new technologies into problem-solving-based learning and decision-making can also enhance nursing students’ reasoning skills. Nursing schools should evaluate their current methods and consider integrating or modifying new technologies and methodologies that can help enhance students’ learning and improve their clinical reasoning and cognitive skills.

1. Introduction

Clinical reasoning (CR) is a holistic cognitive process. It allows nursing students to accurately perceive patients’ situations and choose the best course of action among the available alternatives. This process is consistent, dynamic, and flexible, and it helps nursing students gain awareness and put their learning into perspective [ 1 ]. CR is an essential competence for nurses’ professional practice. It is considered crucial that its development begin during basic training [ 2 ]. Analysing clinical data, determining priorities, developing plans, and interpreting results are primary skills in clinical reasoning during clinical nursing practise [ 3 ]. To develop these skills, nursing students must participate in caring for patients and working in teams during clinical experiences. Among clinical reasoning skills, we can identify communication skills as necessary for connecting with patients, conducting health interviews, engaging in shared decision-making, eliciting patients’ concerns and expectations, discussing clinical cases with colleagues and supervisors, and explaining one’s reasoning to others [ 4 ].

Educating students in nursing practise to ensure high-quality learning and safe clinical practise is a constant challenge [ 5 ]. Facilitating the development of reasoning is challenging for educators due to its complexity and multifaceted nature [ 6 ], but it is necessary because clinical reasoning must be embedded throughout the nursing curriculum [ 7 ]. Such being the case, the development of clinical reasoning is encouraged, aiming to promote better performance in indispensable skills, decision-making, quality, and safety when assisting patients [ 8 ].

Nursing education is targeted at recognising clinical signs and symptoms, accurately assessing the patient, appropriately intervening, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions. All these clinical processes require clinical reasoning, and it takes time to develop [ 9 ]. This is a significant goal of nursing education [ 10 ] in contemporary teaching and learning approaches [ 6 ].

Strategies to mitigate errors, promote knowledge acquisition, and develop clinical reasoning should be adopted in the training of health professionals. According to the literature, different methods and teaching strategies can be applied during nursing training, as well as traditional teaching through lectures. However, the literature explains that this type of methodology cannot enhance students’ clinical reasoning alone. Therefore, nursing educators are tasked with looking for other methodologies that improve students’ clinical reasoning [ 11 ], such as clinical simulation. Clinical simulation offers a secure and controlled setting to encounter and contemplate clinical scenarios, establish relationships, gather information, and exercise autonomy in decision-making and problem-solving [ 12 ]. Different teaching strategies have been developed in clinical simulation, like games or case studies. Research indicates a positive correlation between the use of simulation to improve learning outcomes and how it positively influences the development of students’ clinical reasoning skills [ 13 ].

The students of the 21st century utilise information and communication technologies. With their technological skills, organisations can enhance their productivity and achieve their goals more efficiently. Serious games are simulations that use technology to provide nursing students with a safe and realistic environment to practise clinical reasoning and decision-making skills [ 14 ] and can foster the development of clinical reasoning through an engaging and motivating experience [ 15 ].

New graduate nurses must possess the reasoning skills required to handle complex patient situations. Aware that there are different teaching methodologies, with this systematic review we intend to discover which RCTs published focus on CR in nursing students, which interventions have been developed, and their effectiveness, both at the level of knowledge and in increasing clinical reasoning skills. By identifying the different techniques used during the interventions with nursing students in recent years and their effectiveness, it will help universities decide which type of methodology to implement to improve the reasoning skills of nursing students and, therefore, obtain better healthcare results.

This study aims to identify and analyse randomised controlled trials concerning clinical reasoning in nursing students. The following questions guide this literature review:

Which randomised controlled trials have been conducted in the last eleven years regarding nursing students’ clinical reasoning? What are the purposes of the identified RCTs? Which teaching methodologies or strategies were used in the RCTs studies? What were the outcomes of the teaching strategies used in the RCTs?

2. Materials and Methods

This review follows the PRISMA 2020 model statement for systematic reviews. That comprises three documents: the 27-item checklist, the PRISMA 2020 abstract checklist, and the revised flow diagram [ 16 ].

2.1. Search Strategy

A systematic literature review was conducted on PubMed, Scopus, Embase, and the Cochrane Controlled Register of Trials (CENTRAL) up to 15th October 2023.

The PICOS methodology guided the bibliographic search [ 17 ]: “P” being the population (nursing students), “I” the intervention (clinical reasoning), “C” comparison (traditional teaching), “O” outcome (dimension, context, and attributes of clinical reasoning in the students’ competences and the results of the teaching method on nursing students), and “S” study type (RCTs).

The search strategy used in each database was the following: (“nursing students” OR “nursing students” OR “pupil nurses” OR “undergraduate nursing”) AND (“clinical reasoning” OR “critical thinking” OR “clinical judgment”). The filters applied were full text, randomised controlled trial, English, Spanish, and from 1 January 2012 to 15 October 2023. The search strategy was performed using the same process for each database. APP performed the search, and AZ supervised the process.

During the search, the terms clinical reasoning, critical thinking, and clinical judgement were used interchangeably since clinical judgement is part of clinical reasoning and is defined by the decision to act. It is influenced by an individual’s previous experiences and clinical reasoning skills [ 18 ]. Critical thinking and clinical judgement involve reflective and logical thinking skills and play a vital role in the decision-making and problem-solving processes [ 19 ].

The first search was conducted between March and September 2022, and an additional search was conducted during October 2023, adding the new articles published between September 2022 and September 2023, following the same strategy. The search strategy was developed using words from article titles, abstracts, and index terms. Parallel to this process, the PRISMA protocol was used to systematise the collection of all the information presented in each selected article. This systematic review protocol was registered in the international register PROSPERO: CRD42022372240.

2.2. Eligibility Criteria and Study Selection

The following inclusion criteria were examined: (a) clinical reasoning, clinical judgment, and critical thinking in nursing students as a primary aim; (b) articles published in the last eleven years; (c) research conducted between January 2012 and September 2023; (d) articles published only in English and Spanish; and (e) RCTs. On the other hand, the exclusion criteria were studies conducted with students from other disciplines other than nursing, not random studies or review articles.

2.3. Data Collection and Extraction

After this study selection, the following information was extracted from each article: bibliographic information, study aims, teaching methodology, sample size and characteristics, time of intervention, and conclusions.

2.4. Risk of Bias

The two reviewers, APP and AZ, worked independently to minimise bias and mistakes. The titles and abstracts of all papers were screened for inclusion. All potential articles underwent a two-stage screening process based on the inclusion criteria. All citations were screened based on title, abstract, and text. Reviewers discussed the results to resolve minor discrepancies. All uncertain citations were included for full-text review. The full text of each included citation was obtained. Each study was read thoroughly and assessed for inclusion following the inclusion and exclusion criteria explained in the methodology. The CASP tool was utilised to appraise all included studies. The CASP Randomized Controlled Trial Standard Checklist is an 11-question checklist [ 20 ], and the components assessed included the appropriateness of the objective and aims, methodology, study design, sampling method, data collection, reflexivity of the researchers, ethical considerations, data analysis, rigour of findings, and significance of this research. These items of the studies were then rated (“Yes” = with three points; “Cannot tell” = with two points; “No” = with one point). The possible rates for every article were between 0 and 39 points.

2.5. Ethical Considerations

Since this study was a comprehensive, systematic review of the existing published literature, there was no need for us to seek ethical approval.

3.1. Search Results

The initial search identified 158 articles using the above-mentioned strategy (SCOPUS ® n = 72, PUBMED ® n = 56, CENTRAL ® n = 23, and EMBASE ® n= 7), and the results are presented in Figure 1 . After retrieving the articles and excluding 111, 47 were selected for a full reading. Finally, 17 articles were selected. To comply with the methodology, the independent reviewers analysed all the selected articles one more time after the additional search, and they agreed to eliminate two of them because this study sample included nursing students as well as professional nurses. Therefore, to have a clear outcome focused on nursing students, two articles were removed, and the very final sample size was fifteen articles, following the established selection criteria ( Figure 1 ). The reasons for excluding studies from the systematic review were: nurses as targets; other design types of studies different from RCTs; focusing on other health professionals such as medical students; review studies; and being published in full text in other languages other than Spanish or English.

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Object name is healthcare-12-00090-g001.jpg

Flowchart of screening of clinical reasoning RCTs that underwent review.

3.2. Risk of Bias in CASP Results

All studies included in the review were screened with the CASP tool. Each study was scored out of a maximum of 39 points, showing the high quality of the randomised control trial methodology. The studies included had an average score of 33.1, ranging from 30 to 36 points. In addition, this quantitative rate of the items based on CASP, there were 13 studies that missed an item in relation to assessing/analysing outcome/s ‘blinded or not’ or not, and 11 studies that missed the item whether the benefits of the experimental intervention outweigh the harms and costs.

3.3. Data Extraction

Once the articles had undergone a full reading and the inclusion criteria were applied, data extraction was performed with a data extraction table ( Appendix A ). Their contents were summarised into six different cells: (1) CASP total points result, (2) purpose of this study, (3) teaching strategy, (4) time of intervention, (5) sample size, and (6) author and year of publication. After the review by the article’s readers, fifteen RCTs were selected. Of the fifteen, the continent with the highest number of studies was Asia, with 53.33% of the studies (n = 8) (Korea n = 4, Taiwan n = 2, and China n = 2), followed by Europe with 26.66% (n = 4) (Turkey n = 2, Paris n = 1, and Norway n = 1), and lastly South America with 20% (n = 3), all of them from Brazil.

3.4. Teaching Strategies

Different teaching strategies have been identified in the reviewed studies: simulation methods (seven articles) and learning programmes (eight articles). There are also two studies that focus on comparing different teaching methodologies.

3.4.1. Clinical Simulation

The simulation methods focused on in the studies were virtual simulation (based on mobile applications), simulation games, and high-fidelity clinical simulation. Of the total number of nursing students in the studies referring to clinical simulations, 43.85% were in their second year, while 57.1% were senior-year students. The most used method in the clinical simulation group was virtual simulation, and 57.14% of studies included only one-day teaching interventions.

Virtual simulations were used to increase knowledge about medication administration and nasotracheal suctioning in different scenarios [ 21 ], to evaluate the effect of interactive nursing skills, knowledge, and self-efficacy [ 11 ], and to detect patient deterioration in two different cases [ 22 ]. Simulation game methodology was used to improve nursing students’ cognitive and attention skills, strengthen judgment, time management, and decision-making [ 14 ].

Clinical simulation was used to develop nursing students’ clinical reasoning in evaluating wounds and their treatments [ 12 ], to evaluate and compare the perception of stressors, with the goal of determining whether simulations promote students’ self-evaluation and critical-thinking skills [ 23 ], and also to evaluate the impact of multiple simulations on students’ self-reported clinical decision-making skills and self-confidence [ 24 ].

3.4.2. Learning Programs

Different types of learning programmes have been identified in this systematic review: team-based learning, reflective training programs, person-centred educational programmes, ethical reasoning programmes, case-based learning, mapping, training problem-solving skills, and self-instructional guides. Of the total number of nursing students in the studies referring to learning programs, 57.1% were junior-year students, while 43.85% were in their senior year.

Team-based learning is a learner-centred educational strategy that promotes active learning to improve students’ problem-solving, knowledge, and practise performance. It can be implemented in small or large groups divided into teams with an instructor and reading material based on case scenarios [ 25 ]. Reflective training is based on a new mentoring practise to explore, think about, and solve problems actively during an internship. During the reflective training program, the mentors lead students to uncover clinical nursing problems through conversations with them and discussing feedback for their professional portfolios [ 26 ]. The person-centred educational programme focuses on how nursing students perceive individualised care, using design thinking to improve their perception. The use of design thinking gave the students opportunities to apply their theoretical knowledge of the person-centred program to plan innovative solutions that may effectively resolve real-life situations [ 27 ]. Another educational programme identified is the ethical reasoning program, and the aim of this is to improve nursing students’ handling of ethical decision-making situations [ 28 ], engaging the students in complex ethical clinical situations based on real cases.

Case-based learning was used to explore and demonstrate the feasibility of implementing unfolding cases in lectures to develop students’ critical-thinking abilities [ 29 ]. The web-based concept mapping of nursing students was also investigated to determine its impact on critical-thinking skills [ 30 ]. Training problem-solving skills were used to find out how it affected the rate of self-handicapping among nursing students [ 31 ]. And the last article evaluated the effect of the self-instructional guide to improve clinical reasoning skills on diagnostic accuracy in undergraduate nursing students [ 32 ].

4. Discussion

Although 158 studies were initially identified, only 15 articles were finally included in this review. The excluded articles were mainly from other disciplines other than nursing and used a less rigorous study design than RCT.

The three longest interventions were developed in Asia [ 26 , 28 , 29 ]. The longest was 300 h in duration, through one year [ 30 ]. These interventions were based on learning programs, case-based learning, person-centred care (PCC), and reflective training programs. However, it is important to take into account that Asian nursing curriculum programmes are different from European or United States curriculum because their internship is carried out only during the last academic degree year, while in Europe, following the European directive 2005/36/CE, 2013/55/UE nursing education requirements of 4600 h (2300 h of clinical practice) is carried out along the 3–4 years of the academic degree [ 33 ]. On the other hand, the intervention with the biggest sample was 419 nursing students [ 30 ], 210 in the experimental group, and 209 in the control group, and the one with the lowest sample was 51, with 24 students in the control group and 27 in the intervention group [ 32 ]. Therefore, all the included studies had a good sample size.

This systematic review has detected different methodologies to help nursing students improve their reasoning and decision-making skills. Virtual simulation was the most frequently used teaching method, both as a mobile application and as a serious game. In terms of its effectiveness in a study carried out in Taiwan, the use of a mobile application resulted in significantly higher knowledge scores, better skill performance, and higher satisfaction in students than traditional paper materials [ 21 ]. Virtual simulation [ 11 , 14 , 21 ] has also proven to be an effective tool for enhancing knowledge and confidence in recognising and responding to rapidly deteriorating patients, but studies that combined two educational strategies were more effective [ 29 ], like clinical simulation combined with another teaching strategy such as lectures or videos [ 12 ].

An interactive learner-centred nursing education mobile application with systematic contents effectively allowed students to experience positive practical nursing skills [ 11 ]. However, in a study comparing serious game simulation versus traditional teaching methods, no significant difference was found immediately or in the month following the training [ 22 ], but serious games can improve nursing students’ cognitive skills to detect patient deterioration and to make safe decisions about patient care [ 14 ]. Although the innovative teaching method was well received by the students, who expressed higher levels of satisfaction and motivation [ 22 ]. We can affirm that the development of a mobile application and its application can be effectively used by nursing students at all levels [ 11 ]. However, the performance of all these studies was measured on its short-term outcomes, only 40 min [ 21 ], 2 h [ 22 ], and 1 week [ 11 , 14 ] of intervention, and was performed with a mean sample size of 97 nursing students.

The data obtained in a study developed in Brazil [ 12 ] confirm that clinical simulation is effective for the development of nursing students’ clinical reasoning in wound evaluation and treatment and that clinical simulation in conjunction with other educational methods promotes the acquisition of knowledge by facilitating the transition from what the student knows to rational action. Moreover, the high-fidelity simulation strategy increases the perception of stressors related to a lack of competence and interpersonal relationships with patients, multidisciplinary teams, and colleagues compared with the conventional practice class in the skill laboratory. This increase was related to the students’ capacity for self-evaluation and critical reflection, concerning their learning responsibility and the need to acquire the required skills for patient care [ 23 ]. However, in the case of the effect of multiple simulations on students, there are no differences found between the double-versus single-scenario simulations [ 24 ]. The intervention time in these three studies was 30 min [ 23 ], 3.5 h [ 12 ], and 4 days [ 24 ]; then the time used to implement the intervention can determine the results obtained.

The different learning methods have an impact on various learning outcomes and students’ variables. Team-based learning [ 25 ], reflective training [ 26 ], the person-centred education programme [ 27 ], web-based concept mapping [ 30 ], and teaching cognitive-behavioural approaches [ 31 ] have proven to be effective in enhancing problem-solving abilities, knowledge, and reasoning processes and consequently improving the quality of nursing practical education. Team-based learning increased problem-solving ability scores significantly, while those in the control group decreased [ 25 ]. Reflective training, developed in China based on the new mentoring approach, was effective in encouraging nursing students to explore, think about, and solve problems actively during an internship, consequently improving their disposition for critical thinking [ 26 ]. A person-centred education programme using design thinking can effectively improve how nursing students perceive individualised care. Using design thinking allowed the students to apply their theoretical knowledge of the programme to plan innovative solutions that may effectively resolve real health problems [ 27 ]. These programmes were developed in 5 or 6 days [ 27 , 31 ], 1 week or 3 weeks [ 25 , 30 ], and 1 year [ 26 ].

The education programme focused on improving ethical decision-making had statistically significant improvements in nursing students’ self-efficacy in communication confidence, complex ethical decision-making skills, and decreased communication difficulty [ 28 ]. Case-based learning was more effective with lectures than without them in developing students’ critical thinking abilities [ 29 ]. This study was one of the longest developed with 300 h during one school year. This long-term learning intervention could have a positive impact on this study sample. Therefore, the time of the learning intervention could be a limitation in the studied RCTs. The one-time self-instruction guide was ineffective in impacting students’ diagnostic accuracy in solving case studies [ 32 ], and it is possible that only one day of intervention is not enough.

Studies have shown that problem- and team-based learning [ 25 , 31 ] are more beneficial than traditional teaching [ 29 ], as they enhance nursing skills and improve problem-solving abilities, clinical performance, communication competencies, critical thinking, and self-leadership.

Researchers generally agree that clinical reasoning is an important ability and one of the most important competencies for good nursing practise to ensure optimal patient outcomes [ 29 ] and to recognise and address patient deterioration effectively. However, effective communication is crucial in clinical reasoning. It is required to establish a rapport with patients, conduct health evaluations, make collaborative decisions, and discuss clinical cases with colleagues and supervisors. Developing clinical reasoning skills during training is essential to improving nursing professionals’ practice. To enhance clinical reasoning abilities, nursing schools should integrate simulations at every level of education to ultimately improve patient care. Improving nursing students’ preparation will impact the quality of patient care. In addition, new innovative teaching methodologies based on the use of technology could be a motivational driver in nursing clinical reasoning [ 22 ].

5. Limitations

This systematic review did not perform a search on CINAHL. Although most of the journals included in this database are included in MEDLINE, this should be addressed in the future because of the relevance of the database to nursing research. The results of the included studies could have also been influenced by the different times of the interventions and the different contexts. In addition, the reviewers have identified other studies published in languages other than those required by the inclusion criteria. It seems that many articles are published by Asian researchers, but some of them are not in English, so they cannot be analysed.

6. Conclusions

As society progresses, the new generation of nursing students poses a challenge; new technologies are ingrained in their daily lives with access to increasingly advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, and we must adapt training to capture their interest and increase their learning skills. The utilisation of mobile apps, digital simulations, and learning games has a positive impact on the clinical reasoning abilities of nursing students and their motivation. Incorporating new technologies into problem-solving-based learning and decision-making can also enhance nursing students’ reasoning skills. As a result, it is crucial to incorporate these tools into the learning process to maintain students’ interest, motivation, and satisfaction in education. Clinical simulation is particularly important in the training of students in terms of clinical performance. Still, it is necessary to add another teaching method to increase the efficacy of clinical simulations. Therefore, nursing schools should evaluate their current teaching methods and consider integrating or modifying new technologies and methodologies that can help enhance students’ learning, improve their clinical reasoning and cognitive skills, and potentially improve nursing students’ ability to affect patient care positively. By doing so, students will be better equipped to provide high-quality patient care in the future.

Funding Statement

This research received external funding from the European programme Eramus +2021-1-BE02-KA220-HED-000023194.

Author Contributions

Conceptualisation, A.P.-P. and A.Z.; methodology, A.P.-P. and A.Z.; formal analysis, A.P.-P.; writing—original draft preparation, A.P.-P.; writing—review and editing, A.Z.; visualisation, A.Z.; supervision, A.Z. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Data availability statement, conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Disclaimer/Publisher’s Note: The statements, opinions and data contained in all publications are solely those of the individual author(s) and contributor(s) and not of MDPI and/or the editor(s). MDPI and/or the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to people or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content.

Critical thinking definition

critical thinking activity for nursing students

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

  • Developing technical and problem-solving skills
  • Engaging in more active listening
  • Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
  • Seeking out more diversity of thought
  • Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

  • What information should be included?
  • Which information resources should the author look to?
  • What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
  • What is the most effective way to show information?
  • How should the report be organized?
  • How should it be designed?
  • What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

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  1. Critical Thinking Games For Nursing Students : Critical thinking

    critical thinking activity for nursing students

  2. Critical Thinking Games For Nursing Students : Critical thinking

    critical thinking activity for nursing students

  3. Critical Thinking For Nurses Process

    critical thinking activity for nursing students

  4. Nursing Students in Melbourne Learn Critical Thinking

    critical thinking activity for nursing students

  5. Critical Thinking Games For Nursing Students : Critical thinking

    critical thinking activity for nursing students

  6. The Nursing Process And Critical Thinking (Step by Step)

    critical thinking activity for nursing students



  2. 5-Critical Thinking and Nursing Process

  3. Critical thinking:Activity for 9th class jnv Bahraich

  4. Std -1st G.K & PDL Critical Thinking Activity For Learning Animal's And Their Young Ones

  5. Things I Learned In Nursing: Objective Critical Thinking

  6. First Day of School with Critical Thinking Activity Book


  1. What is Critical Thinking in Nursing? (With Examples, Importance, & How

    The following are examples of attributes of excellent critical thinking skills in nursing. 1. The ability to interpret information: In nursing, the interpretation of patient data is an essential part of critical thinking. Nurses must determine the significance of vital signs, lab values, and data associated with physical assessment.

  2. Critical Thinking in Nursing: Developing Effective Skills

    Critical thinking in nursing is invaluable for safe, effective, patient-centered care. You can successfully navigate challenges in the ever-changing health care environment by continually developing and applying these skills. Images sourced from Getty Images. Critical thinking in nursing is essential to providing high-quality patient care.

  3. 10 Activities and Nursing Games for Students

    For a creative end-of-the-year review idea, have each of your students develop their own bingo cards and questions surrounding a specific nursing concept. Then have the entire class play a round of bingo to review the concept. Creating Medication Commercials. Divide students into groups of two or three and have them write and perform medication ...

  4. Developing Critical-Thinking Skills in Student Nurses

    As such, nurse educators must also ensure that students can incorporate critical thinking skills into everyday practice. Critical thinking skills for nurses include problem-solving and the ability to evaluate situations and make recommendations. Done correctly, critical thinking results in positive patient outcomes, Srinidhi Lakhanigam, an RN ...

  5. Fun Critical Thinking Activities for Nursing Students

    9. Decision-making games. The life of a nurse involves making numerous critical decisions. Some of these big resolutions require an instant response. This requires rigorous training. Trainers can use board games, for instance, to pressure students into making healthcare-related decisions fast.

  6. Critical thinking skills of nursing students: Observations of classroom

    Critical thinking (CT) is vital for nursing practice. Nursing schools should provide learning experiences that enable nursing students to acquire CT skills. Yet, these authors are not aware of any study that has directly observed instructional activities related to CT skills acquisition in the classroom environment.

  7. The Value of Critical Thinking in Nursing

    Successful nurses think beyond their assigned tasks to deliver excellent care for their patients. For example, a nurse might be tasked with changing a wound dressing, delivering medications, and monitoring vital signs during a shift. However, it requires critical thinking skills to understand how a difference in the wound may affect blood ...

  8. How to Get Your Nursing Students to Think Critically

    One must know the patterns to problem solve and act appropriately for the patient. One could also use a short patient scenario or NCLEX-style question at the beginning of class as the "problem of the day.". Present this and ask each learner to record what he or she thinks the answer to the question before you lecture.

  9. Critical Thinking: The Development of an Essential Skill for Nursing

    Critical thinking is applied by nurses in the process of solving problems of patients and decision-making process with creativity to enhance the effect. It is an essential process for a safe, efficient and skillful nursing intervention. Critical thinking according to Scriven and Paul is the mental active process and subtle perception, analysis ...

  10. Creative Ways to Enhance and Assess Critical Thinking in Nur ...

    The concepts from an escape room are a great way to deliver opportunities for students to practice this skill and can be provided economically and easily. Being creative in managing these concepts will offer an exciting chance to introduce critical thinking for your students. Nursing Education Perspectives42 (6):E145-E146, November/December 2021.

  11. Games Used to Develop Critical Thinking Skills in Nursing Students

    Ponder: The Socratic Way fills a much needed niche in nursing education, bridging the gap between nursing school and the real world by simulating the type of critical thinking skills nurses must use every day such as assessment, diagnoses, planning, implementation, and evaluation, and allowing students to practice and hone those skills in a non-threatening environment.

  12. Creative Ways to Enhance and Assess Critical Thinking in Nursing Students

    Creative Ways to Enhance and Assess Critical Thinking in Nursing Students. 34107521. 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000830. Nursing students should be challenged to implement critical thinking decisions regarding conclusions they implement for patient care. This article reinforces common techniques and introduces new practices to teach critical thinking.

  13. Critical thinking in nursing clinical practice, education and research

    Lastly, we show that critical thinking constitutes a fundamental component in the research process, and can improve research competencies in nursing. We conclude that future research and actions must go further in the search for new evidence and open new horizons, to ensure a positive effect on clinical practice, patient health, student ...

  14. Validated instructional resource to engage nursing students in critical

    Questioning has been established as an effective means to stimulate critical thinking (Chan, 2013; Cho et al., 2012; De Oliveira et al., 2015).Questioning nursing students in a sequential manner can stimulate higher order thinking by scaffolding discovery of connections and fostering comprehension and application of concepts, analysis of data, and evaluation of patient responses (Bloom et al ...

  15. 10 Engaging Online Nursing Games for Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills

    Nursing Sim. Critical thinking skills are crucial for nurses. This is a mobile game to help nursing students practice the multifactor decision-making process of nurse assignment, which includes accurately recognizing nurse competency, assessing patient acuity, and determining how to equitably delegate which patients each nurse sees on a shift. 9.

  16. Critical Thinking Activities in Nursing Programs

    Her fellow instructors began creating simulated patient cases to help students develop critical thinking in the following domains: Physical, hands-on skills: medication administration, dressing ...

  17. An Activity to Encourage Critical Thinking: Build a Patient

    An Activity to Encourage Critical Thinking: Build a Patient. Nurse Educator 43(3):p 144, 5/6 2018. | DOI: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000471. Buy; ... Hot Potato Nursing Style; Bonus-in-a-Box: Supplemental Evaluation Using Sensory Perceptions in Nursing Education; Using Kahoot Jumble to Teach Prioritization;

  18. PDF Development of Critical Thinking Skills in Nursing Students

    Abstract. Critical thinking is an integral part of being a competent nurse. Critical thinking skills are required for safe practice and are mandated aspects of nursing curricula by state education guidelines and accrediting organization. Having sound critical thinking skills is important to protect, improve, and increase the quality of life.

  19. Critical Thinking Activities for Nursing

    This exercise/activity book is a powerful learning tool -- and a must-have resource for every nursing student! It focuses on thinking critically in a variety of healthcare situations. Well organized, it progresses from simple to complex issues and uses nursing examples and nontraditional examples (including literature) to help students master true critical thinking.

  20. 9 Fun and Educational Nursing Games

    Fun and Educational Nursing Games 1. Prognosis: Your Diagnosis. If you're always getting a busy shift but still want to brush up your critical thinking skills while on the go, then Prognosis: Your Diagnosis shouldn't be out of your list of nursing games. This app can help you assess your knowledge about diseases, test your clinical knowledge, and apply what you know in a risk-free environment.

  21. Teaching Strategies for Developing Clinical Reasoning Skills in Nursing

    To investigate the impact of web-based concept mapping education on nursing students' critical-thinking and concept-mapping skills. 34: Zarshenas et al., 2019 : n = 90: 2 h for 6 days: Problem-solving: To investigate how training problem-solving skills affected the rate of self-handicapping among nursing students. 33: Svellingen et al., 2021 ...

  22. Effectiveness of Simulation in Nursing Students' Critical Thinking

    Clinical reasoning and critical thinking have been identified as competency deficient in many new graduate nurses (Herron, 2018; Theisen & Sandau, 2013). As a result enhancing critical thinking in undergraduate nursing education is a significant focus of contemporary nursing education research internationally (Alfaro-LeFevre, 2019; Carvalho et al., 2017; Levett-Jones, 2017). Developing ...

  23. Using Critical Thinking in Essays and other Assignments

    Share via: Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to ...