Background Information and Significance: Critical thinking (CT) skills and the inclination to engage in critical thinking are essential for nurse managers to function as transformational leaders capable of influencing staff to align with organizational goals. In an extensive literature review, numerous studies were found examining the concept of CT in students and no studies were found exploring CT in nurse managers. Identifying the attributes, such as CT, that lead to success in the nurse manager role is useful when preparing nurse managers to lead effectively in the current healthcare climate.
Research Question: Is there a difference between nurse managers’ CT dispositions and their respective staff nurses’ perceptions of the practice environment?
Design: A convenience sample of 12 nurse managers and a random sample of 132 of their respective staff registered nurses (RNs) participated in this descriptive study. CT in nurse managers was measured by the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI). Staff RNs’ perceptions of the practice environment were measured by the Practice Environment Scale (PES). The research question was answered using a t test.
Findings: Significant (p < .001) differences were found between specific nurse managers’ CCTDI scores for open-mindedness, analyticity, and critical thinking confidence, and significant differences (p < .01) were found for systematicity when compared with their respective staff RNs’ mean subscale and overall PES scores.
Conclusions: Results of the study support the positive relationship between strength in critical thinking dispositions of nurse managers and their respective staff RNs’ perceptions of the practice environment. Nurse managers with stronger CT dispositions may be better able to create positive practice environments that are conducive to job satisfaction and thus the retention of staff RNs. Inclusion of strategies to support the development and use of CT in nurse managers is recommended. CT and other leadership attributes and skills including emotional and social intelligence and management of change through an appreciative inquiry process may provide opportunities to improve leadership effectiveness in nurse managers.
Clinical Relevance: Enhancing critical thinking skills and dispositions of nurse managers may help to create positive work environments for staff RNs. Staff RNs who work in an environment perceived to be positive may be in a better position to deliver high quality, safe patient care.