Investigation into the relationship between critical thinking skills and clinical judgment in the nurse practitioner student
White, Nancy E.
Hayes, Janice S.
Wilson, Vicki W.
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a relationship between critical thinking (CT) skills and clinical judgment in nurse practitioner (NP) students enrolled in an advanced practice educational program. To assess this relationship, the following four research hypotheses were developed: Nurse Practitioner students who demonstrate higher scores on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) will also demonstrate more accuracy in the formulation of differential diagnoses as determined by their results on the exam style questions. Nurse Practitioner students who demonstrate higher scores on the (CCTST) will also demonstrate higher scores on the evaluation and reevaluation of consequences subscale of the Clinical Decision-Making in Nursing Scale (CDMNS). Nurse Practitioner students who demonstrate higher scores on the (CCTST) will also demonstrate more accuracy in the formulation of differential diagnosis as determined by the preceptor clinical evaluation tool. Professional work experience of the NP student as a registered nurse will have some relationship to the NP students’ scores and sub-scores on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test. This descriptive correlational study using a convenience, nonprobability sampling technique engaged participants from across the United States. All participants were enrolled in a family nurse practitioner educational program at the master’s level. Participants were within one year of graduation and providing care for patients under the supervision of a clinical preceptor. There were 50 participants who completed all the study tools. Correlational analysis demonstrated no statistically significant relationship between critical thinking skills and exam style questions; critical thinking skills and scores on the evaluation and reevaluation of consequences subscale of the CDMNS tool; critical thinking skills and the preceptor evaluation tool; and critical thinking skills and years of professional nursing experience. Further statistical evaluation using one way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and Kruskal-Wallis analysis demonstrated no statistically significant relationship between critical thinking skills and professional work experience or years of professional work experience. Based on this small study, no statistically significant relationship was found between critical thinking skills and clinical judgment. However, those nurses who had critical care nursing experience demonstrated higher scores on all of the CCTST scales. To further investigate the potential relationship between professional nursing experience and critical thinking skills, further research should be considered. Educators and practitioners could consider further research in these areas to gain insight into how clinical judgment is and could be measured; to gain insight into the critical thinking skills of NP students; and to gain insight into the development and measurement of critical thinking skills in advanced practice educational programs.
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