Expert spotlight: Assessing new hires as critical thinkers

Nurse Leader Insider, April 6, 2009

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This week, learn how a self-assessment tool can shine a light on new nurses’ critical thinking skills with expert advice from Shelley Cohen, RN, BS, CEN, president and founder of Health Resources Unlimited in Hohenwald, TN.

Q: Do you have any guidelines for developing a self-assessment tool to evaluate new nurses’ critical thinking skills?

A: Regardless of the years of experience of your new hires, conducting a self assessment is a valuable tool to measure their perception of their ability to perform at the critical-thinking level. The forms should be reviewed by the new hires, their preceptors, and their managers.

When developing a self-assessment tool, make sure to include items that reflect:

  • Generic nursing skill
  • Specialty-area questions
  • Questions for both the novice and experienced nurse

New hires should be asked to complete the self-assessment tool upon hire and again when they conclude their orientation period, or after about three months. You can then compare the responses of both assessments. Keep in mind there may be little noticeable change in responses from seasoned nurses who are working at peak performance levels. Others, particularly new graduates, should show marked improvements following this training period.

Having new nurses conduct a self assessment at the start of orientation and after they have been at your facility for a few months:

  • Clarifies and defines their critical-thinking abilities and identifies areas that require more attention during orientation
  • Provides a documentation process that validates areas of strength and weakness
  • Becomes a resourceful tool from which you and the nurse may develop goals
  • Provides a record of the dates that orientees demonstrated these proficiencies

Editor’s note: Do you have a question for our experts? Email your queries to Editor Keri Mucci at and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts.


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