First Advisor

Roehrs, Carol

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Nurses are the largest group of health care professionals. Their ability to think critically and communicate effectively even in ambiguous and uncertain situations has a direct effect on the quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of health care. Nurses must be able to utilize critical thinking to move beyond seeing individual pieces or components of patients' clinical pictures to seeing the whole, with an appreciation of how the pieces connect and interrelate. Graduate nurses have reported difficulty in seeing the whole of a clinical situation. This qualitative study used descriptive phenomenology to describe how senior nursing students came to see the whole of a clinical situation. Eleven nursing students were interviewed. The results revealed five themes important to the experience: build a solid foundation, see the patient, connect the dots, trust oneself, and relationship with faculty/preceptors. The results were reviewed in the context of existing literature. Recommendations for nursing education were made and opportunities for future research were discussed.

Abstract Format



Qualitative research; Clinical judgment; Critical thinking; Education; Nursing; Nursing students


170 pages

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