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Keywords:

  • critical thinking;
  • critical theory;
  • nursing practice;
  • concept clarification;
  • problem solving;
  • clinical judgement;
  • decision making

Catching the wave: understanding the concept of critical thinking¶As a practice-orientated profession, nursing is clearly guided by theoretical concepts. Concept clarification attempts to show speakers and readers how they can liberate themselves from the judgement limitations imposed by rigid, unexamined beliefs, by exposing differences in the interpretation of language and how that interpretation creates meaning. Critical thinking is one way nurses apply the process of inquiry. As a method of assessing, planning, implementing, evaluating and reconstructing nursing care, a critical thinking approach encourages nurses to challenge established theory and practice. Existing literature on critical thinking is confusing in its description of the process, and ambiguous in drawing relationships between critical thinking and the language currently used to illustrate the process of nursing. This paper examines elements and components of critical thinking as they relate to the language of nursing: problem solving, decision making, clinical judgement, reflection, and the nursing process. The purpose of this analysis is to illuminate the meaning and clarify the intent of critical thinking application to nursing practice. The paper begins by briefly outlining the historical aspects of critical social theory, suggesting that the foundational tenets of critical theory have influenced the development of critical thinking. The paper also critically compares the language used to describe critical thinking and that language that has traditionally defined nursing.