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Avoiding Autopilot

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Rarely are we genuinely thoughtless—that is, without thought. But often we are not giving our thoughts much consideration. In today’s world, there is much distraction and sometimes we are guilty of distracting ourselves just to prevent our minds from focusing on the things that are most important (electronic devices proliferate and give us many opportunities to engage in mindlessness). So, to be genuinely able to think about thinking, we must avoid going onto autopilot.

Autopilot is the state of being where we are largely going through the motions, not thoughtfully engaged in the activities of life. It is when we arrive at our destination but cannot remember the traffic on our commute, or taking the last turn or even whether we stopped for the traffic signal or not—it happens to all of us, and that is autopilot. The key is in recognizing when it is happening and being willing and able to intercept your unconscious mind and instead coax it to be present in the real-life situation you’re living. It is learning to move our conscious mind from nowhere to now here—a subtle but essential difference!

Being present in the moment is the essence of mindfulness, and it is powerful! Mindfulness wakes us up to sensations we have been failing to notice. It reveals patterns in our activities that we’ve become blind to. It permits us the full engagement in the reality happening in front of us and even within us, silently, steadfastly, sacredly. Mindfulness may enable us to improve our health, connect more successfully to other people, enlarge our thinking, focus our perception, and even strengthen our intuition. Mindfulness is the polar opposite of autopilot!

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Dealing with racism in patients

Nurse managers and their staff often face racism in the work place; Minority Nurse reported that almost half of minority nurses said they have experienced barriers in their career because of their race and educational background. In addition to institutional barriers, there is also the problem of patient racism, where patients refuse care based on the race or ethnicity of the provider. As a nurse, you might be put in the unenviable position of deciding how to handle one of these situations. Do you refuse care to the patient? Do you acquiesce to the patient’s unreasonable demand?

The New England Journal of Medicine published an article last week that provides some useful information about how to handle patient racism. The authors point out that there are a number of concerns to take into account, both legally and ethically. The situation pits a number of rights and laws against each other, including the patient’s right to refuse medical care, laws that require hospitals to provide medical care in emergency situations, and employment rights that dictate that hospitals cannot make staff decisions based on race. Nurses that have been reassigned based on a patient’s racial demands have successfully sued their employers, but if a patient doesn’t receive proper medical attention in a timely manner, facilities are equally liable.

The journal lays out five factors to consider when faced with this difficult situation:

  • The patient’s medical condition: If the patient is unstable, treat the patient right away, regardless of the patient’s preference. It is possible that their current condition is impairing their mental faculties.
  • The patient’s decision-making capacity: Try to assess if the patient is capable of making decisions for themselves; psychosis or dementia are important factors to consider. If the patient lacks decision-making capacity, try to persuade the patient to reconsider their request.
  • Reasons for the request: If there are clinical or ethnically appropriate reasons for reassigning staff, that should be taken into consideration. For example, if there are language barriers or religious concerns, it might be reasonable to accommodate the patient.
  • Effect on the provider: Always take into account the effect a decision might have on the employee. “For many minority health care workers, expressions of patients’ racial preferences are painful and degrading indignities, which cumulatively contribute to moral distress and burnout,” according to the article. Always try to support staff when possible, and discuss their preferences when deciding how to respond.
  • Options for responding: In some situations, staffing might dictate your decision. If the department is understaffed and you cannot provide proper coverage by reassigning, try to persuade the patient.

If faced with a non-emergency situation and a patient is deemed capable of making decisions, the article suggests that it may be best to suggest that the patient seek care elsewhere; though that also has its risks depending on the availability of other treatment.

For more information on this difficult issue, including a useful decision-making tool, read the New England Journal of Medicine’s full article.

Strategies for implementing evidence-based practices: Journal clubs

If you’re looking for ways to get your staff engaged and current on the latest evidence-based practices, then you should consider starting a journal club, a regular meeting of staff members to discuss articles from nursing journals. It’s a great way to improve your staff’s reading habits and critical thinking while promoting cooperation and teamwork.

To start your club, you need to choose someone to select readings. A master’s-prepared nurse specialist or educator would be an ideal candidate to lead the group, but anyone with the proper knowledge or enthusiasm would make a fine choice. They should endeavor to select readings that are informative, relevant, and accessible to encourage nurses of all levels to participate. They should start by selecting a guide to critical reading, so everyone has the tools to discuss the articles. Once they’ve selected the article, make sure the reading is easily obtainable and give plenty of advanced notice to ensure everyone has time to read it.

The biggest hurdle for starting a journal club in a healthcare environment is finding time in your staff’s busy schedule. Ideally, you want to find a time that works for everyone, perhaps during a shared break or change of shift. If this proves too daunting, you can always create a virtual journal club. You could use a hospital intranet, email list, or even a chat forum to discuss the readings.

Once you get everyone together, encourage them to think about the article critically and ask them to evaluate it. Here’s a great list of questions to start discussions and get the group thinking about the reading.

If you find that your group has lost momentum or attendance is waning over time, try providing incentives for attendees. Small perks or competitions can be a great way to encourage attendance and let your group have some fun!

Here are some helpful links to get you started!

Running an effective journal club

From the desk of Adrianne Avillion, DEd, RN

Who should facilitate journal clubs?

Help nurses critique journal articles

Do you have a journal group at your facility? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

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Yesterday’s post has links to a 20% discount code on all nursing products, a BOGO on books and handbooks, and other activities of interest…