The Use of a Computerized Critical Thinking Pediatric Specialty Exam as a Measurement of Workplace Competency

Wednesday, 15 July 2009: 4:05 PM

C. Ryan-Ramey, RN, MSN
Clinical Research, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

Purpose: A lack of critical thinking ability results in registered nurses (RNs) incurring undue financial risk for the healthcare employer related to increased patient complications resulting in poor outcomes. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between domain specific knowledge (pediatric nursing); critical thinking (CT) ability; selected demographic variables; and the length of orientation required to achieve clinical competencies of newly hired RNs.
Methods: A descriptive-correlational study design was used to examine the relationship of selected variables and length of orientation. RNs offered a clinical position at a large southeastern pediatric hospital system were administered a custom pediatric specialty exam used to demonstrate competency in pediatric nursing care knowledge base. Results of the exam were used by unit educators to develop a focused orientation based upon identified knowledge strengths and weaknesses. The employer’s financial impact was based upon the RNs’ length in orientation and attrition rates.
Results: The RNs’ CT ability significantly correlated (-.042; p<.001) with critical thinking ability and length of time in orientation, indicating that those with a higher critical thinking score required fewer clinical orientation days to meet orientation objectives. Identifying the pediatric nursing knowledge strengths and weakness of subjects reduced the required RN orientation time by 50%.
Conclusion: Identification of an RN’s CT ability and pediatric knowledge strengths and weaknesses prior to beginning orientation enable unit educators to better customize the orientation process, thereby meeting individual’s needs (education, support, confidence, quality nursing care) as well as those of the organization (efficient orientation, retention of new nurse).