Aim: To identify what decisions nurses make in medical, surgical and critical care areas and compare the results.
Method: A clinical decision-making questionnaire (CDMQ) consisting of 15 statements was developed. A total of 60 nurses completed the questionnaire: 20 from each of three clinical areas.
Results: Most nurses, in all specialties, regularly made clinical decisions on direct patient care, which included providing basic nursing care and psychological support, and teaching patients and/or family members. Although nurses in all specialties regularly managed the work environment, they did not make decisions on the ward or unit budget, supervise junior staff or mentor student nurses. Critical care nurses regularly made decisions on their extended roles, such as acting in emergency situations and deciding to change patient medication, while medical and surgical nurses only did this occasionally. Length of clinical experience is significantly related to the frequency of decision-making.
Conclusion: The decisions nurses make are directly related to the clinical areas in which they work. However, it would be interesting to know if nurses showed particular aptitudes for different types and levels of decision-making and if this is related to other factors such as personality, education and experience in nursing.