The Institute of Medicine (IOM), 2010, developed a report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” with the primary goal of improving healthcare and patient outcomes, nursing being integral to meeting this goal (Shalala et al., 2011). The report consists of several initiatives, including the need to transform education. Under the initiative, nurses are urged and motivated to study to the highest possible education levels and clinical training. For nurses to deliver quality, safe, and patient-centered care, an improved education system is integral to support their advancement to the highest levels. Several challenges such as inadequate faculty to teach nurses, insufficient incentives to pursue further education, and not educating healthcare professionals as one unit limits the ability to produce a well-educated nursing workforce. Therefore, improvements in the education system are pivotal in creating competent nurses. For instance, the education system should ensure nurses can adapt to the changes experienced in the healthcare system, such as the diversification of the patient population and technology.
The initiative imparts several benefits attributed to a competent nursing workforce that values and adapts to changes, engages in quality improvement initiatives, and designs effective care delivery models that improve patient health outcomes. The initiative encourages nurses to adopt lifelong learning as part of professional development (Qalehsari et al., 2017). Lifelong learning plays an integral role in the maintenance of a healthcare professional’s competence. New evidence and guidelines are continuously being developed within the healthcare field, prompting nurses and other healthcare professionals to be updated through professional development and lifelong learning (Babenko et al., 2017). Lifelong learning encompasses personal initiative and information-seeking skills to learn and understand individual learning needs.
Clinical reasoning, clinical judgment, and lifelong learning are interrelated in various ways. The aforementioned have different definitions and rely on each other. Clinical reasoning is the cognitive process employed to analyze information and knowledge related to a particular patient scenario. In contrast, clinical judgment entails applying critical thinking in the care and management of patients (Victor-Chmil, 2013). According to Qalehsari et al. (2017), lifelong learning is necessary for the nursing profession. It entails continually obtaining knowledge throughout one’s career to sharpen clinical reasoning and judgment to meet the ever-changing patient needs competently. It involves formal learning and informal learning, including attending conferences, enrolling with nursing associations, reading and researching nursing journals and articles, and on-job training.
Lifelong learning improves the nurses’ clinical reasoning and judgment in various ways. For instance, learning through on-job training enables nurses to observe experts manage patients and make decisions. With such simple acts of learning through others, nurses improve their judgment and reasoning. Lifelong learning can be attained through researching, reading, and critiquing nursing journals and articles, thus improving their critical thinking (Babenko et al., 2017). The ability to research and critique information helps nurses develop information and knowledge that betters patient care and outcomes. Access to best research improves clinical judgment becomes practice become evidence-based.
Management of clinical cases relies on exposure to high-quality and up-to-date evidence and expertise gained through experience and access to information and knowledge. Lifelong learning establishes grounds for reasoning and judgment. Adequate knowledge and access to quality evidence are integral to clinical reasoning and judgment. Lifelong learning improves nurses’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills required to manage patients, especially the elderly with complex issues (Victor-Chmil, 2013). On the other hand, for lifelong learning to be achieved, nurses must use clinical reasoning, especially when analyzing evidence and information. Therefore, lifelong learning, clinical reasoning, and clinical judgment are intertwined and are all prerequisites for quality nursing care.
Babenko, O., Koppula, S., Daniels, L. I. A., Nadon, L., & Daniels, V. (2017). Lifelong learning along the education and career continuum: Meta-analysis of studies in health professions. Journal of Advances in Medical Education & Professionalism, 5(4), 157.
Qalehsari, M. Q., Khaghanizadeh, M., & Ebadi, A. (2017). Lifelong learning strategies in nursing: A systematic review. Electronic Physician, 9(10), 5541–5550. Web.
Shalala, D., Bolton, L. B., Bleich, M. R., Brennan, T. A., Campbell, R. E., & Devlin, L. (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington DC: The National Academy Press. doi, 10, 12956.
Victor-Chmil, J. (2013). Critical thinking versus clinical reasoning versus clinical judgment: Differential diagnosis. Nurse Educator, 38(1), 34-36.