Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Cecelia Gatson Grindel - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Barbara Woodring

Third Advisor

Dr. Lori Schumacher

Fourth Advisor

Dr. W. Todd Maddox - Consultant


In the United States nearly 1 million annual new and recurrent myocardial infarctions (MI) occur with 10% of patients hospitalized with MI having unrecognized ischemic symptoms. Inexperienced nurses are expected to accurately interpret cardiac symptom cues, possibly without ever having experienced care of patients with MI, yet have been shown to be less able to classify symptom cues and reach accurate conclusions than experienced nurses. The purpose of this study was to test an educational intervention using theories of pattern recognition to develop CT in MI and improve nursing students’ clinical decision-making and clinical judgment using high fidelity patient simulation. This study used a quasi-experimental three group pre-/post-test design and qualitative data to triangulate information on critical thinking, clinical decision-making, and clinical judgment in MI. A sample of junior baccalaureate in nursing students (N = 54) from a large metropolitan university were divided in pairs and randomized to one of two control groups. Data were collected with instruments which measured pattern recognition in MI, critical thinking in MI, and self-perception of clinical decision-making. In addition, diagnostic efficiency and accuracy were measured. Triangulation on clinical decision making with semi-structured interviews using ‘thinking aloud’ technique was conducted. Data were analyzed as qualitative data and compared among groups. Students who were given prototypes for MI using simulation significantly improved critical thinking as measured by pattern recognition in MI (t(3.153(2), p = .038) compared with the non-simulation control group. Qualitative findings showed that students receiving the experimental simulation with a non-MI scenario and feedback-based debriefing had greatest gains in clinical reasoning which included development of clinical decision-making using analytic hypothetico-deductive and Bayesian reasoning processes and learned avoidance of heuristics. Students receiving the experimental simulation learned to identify salient symptom cues, analyzed data more complexly, and reflected on their simulation experience in a way which students reported improved learning. Students who were given MI only simulation scenarios developed deleterious heuristics and showed fewer gains in clinical reasoning, though both simulation groups demonstrated greater critical thinking ability than the non-simulation control group. Findings support the use of simulation to improve clinical reasoning including pattern recognition and clinical decision-making, and emphasize the significance of simulation scenario construction and debriefing to achieving learning outcomes. The findings could be used to guide further research to improve critical thinking, clinical decision-making, and clinical judgment in nursing students using simulation. Funding for this study was provided by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and Philips Medical Systems and a testing grant from Elsevier, Assessment.

Included in

Nursing Commons