Thinking like a nurse: a research-based model of clinical judgment in nursing

J Nurs Educ. 2006 Jun;45(6):204-11. doi: 10.3928/01484834-20060601-04.


This article reviews the growing body of research on clinical judgment in nursing and presents an alternative model of clinical judgment based on these studies. Based on a review of nearly 200 studies, five conclusions can be drawn: (1) Clinical judgments are more influenced by what nurses bring to the situation than the objective data about the situation at hand; (2) Sound clinical judgment rests to some degree on knowing the patient and his or her typical pattern of responses, as well as an engagement with the patient and his or her concerns; (3) Clinical judgments are influenced by the context in which the situation occurs and the culture of the nursing care unit; (4) Nurses use a variety of reasoning patterns alone or in combination; and (5) Reflection on practice is often triggered by a breakdown in clinical judgment and is critical for the development of clinical knowledge and improvement in clinical reasoning. A model based on these general conclusions emphasizes the role of nurses' background, the context of the situation, and nurses' relationship with their patients as central to what nurses notice and how they interpret findings, respond, and reflect on their response.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Decision Making
  • Ethics, Nursing
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Intuition
  • Judgment*
  • Logic
  • Models, Nursing*
  • Morals
  • Needs Assessment
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Nursing Evaluation Research / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Process*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Problem Solving
  • Thinking*