Evaluation of critical thinking skills in an associate degree nursing program
Jones, Jackie Hastings
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Nurses function in a complex, rapid-paced environment. The healthcare industry is characterized by continuous technological growth, constant change, unremitting expansion, with new knowledge and treatments emerging on an on-going basis. Critical thinking skills are essential for nurses to function as needed in this environment and to survive and evolve in a profession whose field of knowledge is never stagnant and professional numbers never sufficient. The purpose of this study was to examine changes in critical thinking skills in an associate degree nursing program, to determine if a relationship exists between critical thinking scores and specified measures of academic success, and to determine if a relationship exists between critical thinking scores and student variables of high school GPA, SAT scores, or age. This research was conducted at a small liberal arts college and university located in the state of Georgia. The participants in this longitudinal study were a convenience sample of the associate degree students entering a nursing program in the fall of 2002. It was conducted over a two year period and utilized a pretest/posttest design. Data were collected from the students’ records and from scores obtained from administration of the pretest and posttest Critical Thinking Assessments (CTAs). Descriptive statistics, matched pair t-tests, a two sample t-test, correlation analysis, and several simple linear regression analyses were conducted. No significant changes between pretest and posttest CTAs were noted. Statistically significant correlations were found between pretest CTA and matriculation time and GPA of nursing coursework; however, no correlation was found with end-program GPA. Pretest CTA correlated positively with SAT-math and negatively with age. The most significant finding of this study is the relationship between critical thinking skills and academic success in nursing. Recommendations for further studies include identification of specific teaching strategies that promote the development of critical thinking skills, faculty preparedness to teach critical thinking skills, additional studies involving associate degree nursing students, and additional longitudinal studies using nursing-specific definitions of critical thinking.