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Differences in critical thinking skills between nursing students on a fast-track versus traditional 4-year programme

08 April 2021
16 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 7



The authors were unable to find studies comparing the critical thinking skills of nursing students on advanced standing programmes (ASP) and on traditional 4-year BN programmes in Canada. The ASP is a condensed Bachelor of Nursing (BN) programme, designed for students who already have a university degree or similar qualification.


To measure and compare the critical thinking skills of ASP students and traditional 4-year BN students.


A cross-sectional study using a self-administered questionnaire used to collect data from 100 nursing students at a university in Canada. Data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. All research ethics were taken into consideration.


All participants scored highly in their critical thinking skills. However, ASP students scored significantly higher than their counterparts on the 4-year programme (M=21.6 vs M=18.9, F=4.75, P=0.035).


Higher critical thinking skills among ASP nursing students is a promising sign to expand and support this type of programme as a fast and effective method to cover the shortage in nurses.

Critical thinking is one of the most desired outcomes of nursing programmes worldwide. In Canada, all nursing regulatory bodies emphasise critical thinking as part of entry-level competencies for nursing programmes in Canada to practise safely and ethically once qualified in all settings (Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), 2015). This skill is salient for nurses to identify the use of evidence-informed knowledge, skills and judgement as a standard of practice for registered nurses (Nurses Association of New Brunswick, 2012. According to Scheffer and Rubenfeld (2000:352), critical thinkers in nursing are characterised by ‘confidence, contextual perspective, creativity, flexibility, inquisitiveness, intellectual integrity, intuition, open-mindedness, perseverance, and reflection’. The terms ‘critical thinking’, ‘clinical judgment’ and ‘clinical reasoning’ are often used interchangeably to indicate ‘the process of searching, obtaining, evaluating, analyzing, synthesizing, and conceptualizing information as a guide for developing one's thinking with self-awareness, and the ability to use this information by adding creativity and taking risks’ (Yildirim et al, 2011:175). The significance of critical thinking in nursing is evident, and nursing education programmes are evaluated by nursing authorities based on the development of these skills (Khosravani et al, 2004).

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