Nurses Put on Critical Thinking Caps and ‘Dig a Little Deeper’

Critical thinking is a crucial skill to have in determining appropriate treatment strategies for patients.    

On Wednesday, Cheryl D. Herrmann, cardiac clinical nurse specialist, UnityPoint Health, Peoria, Illinois, challenged attendees to put on their critical thinking caps and participate in the interactive session “Sharpening Your Skills in Differential Diagnosis and Treatment With Challenging Case Studies.”

Nurses used clinical reasoning and critical thinking to analyze vital signs, chest radiographs, 12 lead ECGs and lab values, determine the differential diagnosis and identify appropriate interventions for the case studies Herrmann presented.

The session, which deviated from the style of some lectures, focused on cardiac and respiratory cases.

“Your typical lecture is to present a disease and to give all the signs and symptoms,” Herrmann said. “What I like to do is present a case study and say what the patient came in with and provide the lab values. Then I let them try to critically think through what we should do for the patient.”

Using the audience response system, she polled attendees throughout the session regarding differential diagnosis and patient management. Cases included discussion of pneumonia, left bundle branch block versus right bundle branch block, as well as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism and their effects on the heart.

Herrmann illustrated how something could be missed during development of the differential diagnosis. She urged attendees to “dig a little deeper with the symptoms and to think outside the box because, sometimes, we get lured into thinking one thing regarding a patient and then we miss something else.”