Thinking in clinical nursing practice: A study of critical care nurses' thinking applying the think-aloud, protocol analysis method

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Purpose: The purpose of the paper is to discover the patterns and processes of decision-making in clinical nursing practice. Methods: A set of think-aloud data from five critical care nurses during 40 to 50 minutes of caregiving in intensive care units were obtained and analyzed by applying the procedures recommended by Ericsson and Simon for protocol analysis. Results: Four thinking processes before acting were identified to constitute various sorts of thoughts in which the nurses were engaged during patient care: reviewing, validation, consideration, rationalization, and action. In addition, three patterns of sequential streaming of thinking (short, intermediate, long) were identified to reveal various ways the nurses dealt with clinical situations involving nursing tasks and responsibilities. Conclusion: This study specifies the initial categories of thoughts for each of the processes and various patterns with which these processes are sequentially combined, providing insights into the ways nurses think about problems and address their concerns. The findings suggest that the thinking in clinical practice involves more than focused decision-making and reasoning, and needs to be examined from a broader perspective. © 2007 Korean Society of Nursing Science.

Publication Title

Asian Nursing Research