Developing Critical-Thinking Strategies for the NCLEX-RN

The NCLEX-RN tests your critical-thinking skills, so you need to start thinking about your critical-thinking abilities both in providing nursing care and inserting yourself into the nursing situations created in each exam question.

When providing nursing care, your ability to think critically is called clinical judgment. Clinical judgment involves taking your assessment findings, putting them together in a meaningful way, and coming up with some possibilities of what may be going on with the patient. The people who write the NCLEX-RN are very concerned about your clinical judgment (after all, you may be taking care of them someday!). Therefore, you need to fine-tune these skills and apply them to each question on the NCLEX-RN.

Critical thinking involves

  • Using all your senses: observation, smell, hearing, and touch
  • Deciding what's important and what's not
  • Puzzle-solving by looking for patterns and relationships
  • Identifying problems
  • Transferring your knowledge from one situation to another
  • Applying your knowledge
  • Making choices and educated decisions
  • Evaluating intervention based on established criteria

In order to do well on the examination, you need to know what's normal. It's very simple to know what's abnormal if you know what's normal. Review normal results and know them cold when you walk through the door.

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