Clinical reasoning and clinical judgement are terms which can be used interchangeably. It is the process in which nurses and other health care professionals collect cues, process information, understand a patient problem, plan and implement interventions, evaluate outcomes and reflect and learn from the process of it all. Clinical reasoning depends on a person’s critical thinking skills, disposition, attitude, and perspectives. It is not a linear process but rather an ongoing spiral of clinical encounters.
Effective clinical reasoning skills can have a positive impact on patient outcomes. Education of health care professionals should include clinical reasoning skills in order to promote recognition and management of the deteriorating patient and effective communication.
There are 8 main steps in the clinical reasoning cycle: look, collect, process, decide, plan, act, evaluate and reflect. However, these steps are not clear cut, the boundaries between them are often blurred. Clinical reasoning is a dynamic process during which health care professionals often combine one or more steps and move back and forth between them before reaching a decision, implementing action and evaluating the outcomes.