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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Measuring critical thinking dispositions of novice nursing students using human patient simulators


Novice nursing students make individual gains in their critical thinking abilities after using human patient simulators (HPS) to learn health assessment skills, report Associate Professor Robin Y. Wood and former Assistant Director of the Clinical Learning Center Coleen E. Toronto in a study published in the Journal of Nursing Education.

The researchers note that, while it’s widely accepted that using HPS in new and realistic clinical scenarios improves critical thinking, there is a lack of research-based evidence to support this belief. Wood and Toronto’s study randomly assigned 85 second-year nursing students to an experimental or control group based on their exposure to a two-hour HPS practice session prior to a course competency examination. The California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI), a measure of reasoning skills, was administered before and after the competency test.

Wood and Toronto found no differences between the experimental and control groups on the overall or seven subscale CCTDI mean scores. However, within-group differences for the HPS practice group were notable for overall scores. “Experimental group students performed significantly better on the post-test than they did on the pre-test,” Wood and Toronto observed. Students within this group also scored higher on subscales of “truth-seeking,” which indicates an ability to courageously ask questions and be unbiased, and “judiciousness or maturity of judgment,” which points to discernment in problem solving.

An analysis of the preliminary data suggests that individual students achieve disposition gains through the use of HPS. The researchers plan to follow the cohort for two years to assess the long-term critical thinking outcomes associated with HPS practice.