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Do you have any guidelines for developing a self-assessment tool to evaluate new nurses' critical thinking skills?

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Regardless of the years of experience of your new hires, conducting a self assessment is a valuable tool to measure their perception of their ability to perform at the critical-thinking level. The forms should be reviewed by the new hires and by their preceptors, and occasionally their managers.

When developing a self-assessment tool, make sure to include items that reflect:

  • Generic nursing skill
  • Specialty-area questions
  • Questions for both the novice and experienced nurse

New hires should be asked to complete the same self-assessment tools when they conclude their orientation period, or after about three months. You can then compare the responses to the initial assessment, which also could be reviewed by a preceptor. Keep in mind that the responses may show no difference when the experience or knowledge level of nurses is at peak performance level. Others should show marked improvements during this period, particularly new graduates.

Having new employees conduct a self assessment at the start of orientation and after they have been at your facility for a few months:

  • Clarifies and defines their critical-thinking abilities and identifies areas that require more attention during orientation
  • Provides a documentation process that validates their areas of strength and weakness
  • Becomes a resourceful tool from which you and the nurse may develop goals
  • Provides a record of the dates that orientees demonstrated these proficiencies

—Shelley Cohen, RN, BS, CEN, president and founder of Health Resources Unlimited in Hohenwald, TN

(March 2009)