Using problem-based learning in the clinical setting to improve nursing students' critical thinking: an evidence review

J Nurs Educ. 2011 Mar;50(3):145-51. doi: 10.3928/01484834-20101230-10. Epub 2010 Dec 30.


In preparation for the progressive nature of today's acute care hospital environments and the requirements for safe and effective patient care, it is essential that nursing students learn how to think critically. Problem-based learning is a method of education designed to encourage critical thinking. This article examines the evidence regarding the use of problem-based learning to improve critical thinking. A review of published literature was conducted using the CINAHL, ERIC, PsychInfo, and PubMed databases with the keywords nursing, problem-based learning, and critical thinking. Although the evidence is still accumulating, the studies reviewed indicate a positive relationship between problem-based learning and improved critical thinking in nursing students. There is a need for more rigorous research on the use of problem-based learning to examine the effects on critical thinking. Until this occurs, nursing instructors must rely on the extant evidence to guide their practice or continue to use the traditional model of clinical nursing education.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Thinking*