Clinical Reasoning

Competency Statement: The nursing student demonstrates the ability to accurately assess, interpret and respond to individual patient data in a systematic and timely way.


The nursing student:

  1. Discusses the relationship between patient safety and clinical reasoning
  2. Identifies examples of assessment frameworks that can be used to systematically collect patient data and inform clinical reasoning
  3. Differentiates between normal and abnormal vital signs and other critical patient data
  4. Outlines the pathophysiology underpinning abnormal patient data
  5. Discusses the impact of situational awareness on clinical reasoning and patient safety
  6. Discusses the importance of lifelong learning to safe and effective clinical reasoning
  7. Reflects on and discusses how cognitive biases can influence clinical reasoning

The nursing student:

  1. Uses a systematic and logical process for clinical reasoning
  2. Conducts a comprehensive and focused nursing assessment using appropriate frameworks and techniques
  3. Refers to a range of patient data including handover reports, medical records, the person’s social and medical history and evidence-based guidelines
  4. Elicits the person’s concerns and understanding of the situation
  5. Differentiates between normal and abnormal vital signs and other critical patient data
  6. Analyses, synthesises and interprets assessment data accurately and systematically
  7. Notices subtle changes in a patient’s condition that signal the need for further investigation, immediate clinical review or rapid response
  8. Uses early warning charts and systems appropriately
  9. Anticipates, recognises and responds appropriately to clinical deterioration
  10. Matches the features of the person’s presentation with other similar or previous patient encounters
  11. Identifies priority patient problems based on accurate and complete interpretation of available patient data
  12. Plans and implements nursing care both autonomously and in consultation with other members of the healthcare team
  13. Evaluates progress towards expected outcomes by re-assessing the person’s condition
  14. Critically reflects on and learns from previous experiences to improve clinical reasoning skills

Clinical reasoning is a cyclical process by which nurses collect cues, interpret the information, come to an understanding of a patient problem or situation, plan and implement interventions, evaluate outcomes, and reflect on and learn from the process. Clinical reasoning requires a critical thinking disposition and is influenced by the nurse’s assumptions, attitudes and cognitive biases.