Please complete the form to download a brochure and speak to an Enrollment Specialist about starting your application.

How Nurse Managers Can Improve Critical Thinking

critical thinking

Critical thinking is an invaluable tool for nurse managers. These professionals make many important decisions to produce positive patient outcomes in a fast-paced environment. Critical thinking is a developed habit that comprises several skills. Nurse managers can learn these skills with self-evaluation and support from professional peers.

Challenges for Nurse Leaders

Nurse managers create healthy work environments for caregivers and positive outcomes for patients. [1] A healthy work environment is a positive setting where caregivers feel engaged with their work and pursue growth opportunities. Positive patient outcomes result when staff members minimize medical errors and communities receive quality healthcare. Nurse managers maintain morale and foster teamwork to create these outcomes. To facilitate this environment, managers provide the necessary tools and training so that caregivers can make informed and effective decisions.

Nurse empowerment and superior leadership reduce staff member turnover. In the fast paced and complex caregiving environment, nurse managers face a challenge producing these results. [2] This is especially difficult for professionals that have earned advancements based solely on technical expertise, with little to no management training.

Nurse managers not only supervise caregiving related tasks – but also oversee financial, operational and legal responsibilities. Handling these various work duties requires critical thinking skills to evaluate new information quickly rather than relying solely on experience.

Critical Thinking Assists Managers with Decision-making

With critical thinking, nurse managers create work environments where medical personnel feel valued and, as a result, remain loyal to their employers. Using the skill, nurse managers reduce caregiver fatigue and in turn improve patient outcomes. For each issue that arises, nurse managers accurately analyze facts and determine appropriate solutions. Habitual critical thinking allows these leaders to act quickly.

Nurse managers that incorporate critical thinking skills into their repertoire sometimes develop policies that go against tradition. Leaders that utilize critical thinking build stronger rapport with their charges and facilitate the mutual respect required to nurture continual improvement. These professionals find ways to improve caregiver satisfaction and at the same time create an environment where medical personnel have more control over certain decisions. This work environment, called autonomy, promotes morale and improves nurse performance.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Nursing managers make many decisions to improve caregiving outcomes. [3] They logically and accurately make choices that advance institutional goals. Managers communicate clearly and listen actively to facilitate the information exchange necessary to make decisions in a dynamic setting. This applies whether the manager is communicating ideas verbally or in writing.

Static, illogical thinking does not serve patients’ best interest. Additionally, nurse managers that incorporate critical thinking know when to disregard irrelevant information.

Nurse managers use logic and reason to evaluate information relevant to caregiving. [4] This requires the ability to eliminate biased opinions based on experiences. By following this practice, nurse managers make decisions that aptly apply to current situations and think of not only immediate solutions but also future consequences.

Practicing Critical Thinking

It takes time and practice to develop cognitive skills such as critical thinking, which requires that managers evaluate how they approach problems. [2] Eliminating personal biases helps managers make relevant decisions; when managers suspend judgment, they are open to concepts introduced from external sources. This quality promotes collaboration across disciplines and helps nursing managers learn more about their organizations as well as new medical trends. These individuals confront problems directly and investigate issues to discover valid solutions. By asking questions and gathering data, nurse managers cultivate information that allows them to make confident, informed decisions.

Nurse managers can evaluate their cognitive skills by maintaining a reflective journal. Penning weekly work-related entries helps managers recognize how they make decisions and improves their critical thinking skills. The exercise helps managers tap into the creativity, emotions, and judgment required to make logical decisions. Additionally, the journal helps mangers connect critical thinking skill theory and practice.

Managers that wish to learn critical thinking skills are not alone. They can seek mentors within their organization or through professional associations. Additionally, ongoing education helps nurse managers develop critical thinking skills by increasing the information available for decision-making.

Nurse managers use critical thinking skills to make decisions that improve the caregiving environment for nurses and patients and effectively decide how to handle many issues that arise. They practice critical thinking to quickly make informed, relevant decisions in sometimes chaotic settings. Critical thinking skills allow managers to develop habits to help them make choices that benefit all stakeholders. Nurse managers can begin learning these habits with self-evaluation and support from peers in the medical field. While education is a key component in developing this skill, the most important steps are introspection and continual adaptation to an ever-changing environment.

Learn More

Adventist University started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908 when it began training nurses so healthcare could be provided for more people. Today they offer cutting edge education and experienced faculty dedicated to helping individuals interested in pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing degree.


1. Weston, PhD. , RN MJ. Strategies for Enhancing Autonomy and Control Over Nursing Practice. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. January 2010;15(1).
2. The Sentinal Watch Nursing. Critical Thinking Skills in Nursing Management. The Sentinal Watch Nursing [Web Page]. June 12, 2014. Available at: Accessed September 19, 2016.
3. Nurse Journal. The Value of Critical Thinking in Nursing + Examples. [Web Page]. 2016. Available at: Accessed September 19, 2016.
4. Nurse Journal. Nursing’s Buzzword: Critical Thinking. [Web Page]. 2016. Available at: Accessed September 19, 2016.