From my lens of clinical practice and drawing from the literature, I created a handout  titled a “Template of Clinical Reasoning Questions to Develop Nurse Thinking” that deconstructs clinical reasoning by breaking it down in step-by-step. It identifies how a nurse systematically sets and establishes care priorities when preparing for patient care as well as throughout the shift.

These twelve clinical reasoning questions have been derived and adapted from the work of leading nurse educators such as Patricia Benner, Linda Caputi, and Lisa Day, as well as my own observations from my practice. Therefore, it is grounded on a best practice theoretical foundation and filtered through my lens of clinical experience.

This template of clinical reasoning questions is not unique to how I approach professional practice, but as you review this series of clinical reasoning questions, you will recognize that this template captures the essence of how you thought like a nurse in practice as well.

This template is divided into two sections. First, there is a series of eight questions that represent the sequential thinking that is required BEFORE a patient is seen by the nurse. As the nurse reviews the chart and obtains reports, these eight questions must be answered. This section emphasizes the following aspects of clinical reasoning:

  • Relevant data collection
  • Care planning priorities/interventions
  • Nurse vigilance by identifying the worst possible or most likely complication and what to do if it presents

The second half of my template has four questions to guide nurse thinking AFTER the patient is seen for the first time and the nurse has collected clinical assessment data firsthand. These four questions emphasize the following aspects of clinical reasoning:

  • Relevance of VS, assessment data collected
  • Nursing priority…has it changed?
  • Priority educational needs to address
  • Rationale of primary care provider’s plan of care

This template of clinical reasoning questions can also be used to replace the traditional care plan (recommend advanced level) because it combines care planning, nursing process, and clinical reasoning in one form. I have received numerous anecdotal reports from faculty who have successfully incorporated this template into their clinical setting.

Download link: PDF of Clinical Reasoning Template