Background. Nurturing critical thinking skills in the classroom is considered an important educational activity. It is believed that critical thinking skills are transferable and that they can be applied in practice when appraising, evaluating and implementing research. That more nurses than ever before have been judged academically knowledgeable in research has not guaranteed the transfer of such knowledge to practice.
Aim of the paper. This paper discusses some of the reasons for the failure to narrow the gap between research and practice. In particular we argue that, if nurses are encouraged to develop creative and generative thinking alongside their critical thinking skills, then the art of nursing will have fuller representation in education, research and practice.
Discussion. The successful development of critical thinking skills for academic purposes does not necessarily mean that these skills are used in practice in relation either to research or clinical decision-making. This suggests that the transferability of critical thinking skills is less than straightforward. Indeed, there has been little narrowing of the research–practice gap since students started to learn critical thinking for academic purposes. However, we propose that thinking skills can be encouraged in the context of practice and that regular educational events, such as journal clubs, can contribute to developing critical thinking in the practice environment.
Conclusions. The research–practice gap will reduce only if research becomes part of practitioners' ideology, which includes the art and science of nursing. Critical and creative thinking are prerequisites to narrowing the disjuncture between research and practice, and we suggest that educators and practitioners explore structured ways of meeting together to appraise literature as a possible means of making use of their thinking and knowledge in clinical practice.