Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Stacy Wahl


The primary focus of nursing education in the 21st century is to graduate students with well-developed critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills. This descriptive case study explored the perceptions of 6 faculty and 6 unit staff nurses concerning the assessment of critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills of nursing students in the clinical setting. Benner's novice to expert theory served as the conceptual framework for the research. The guiding research questions focused on faculty and staff perceptions concerning unit staff nurses' level of preparedness to assess the critical thinking and clinical reasoning ability of nursing students, and explored how faculty and unit staff nurses perceived the process of evaluating nursing students' clinical reasoning and critical thinking skills in the clinical setting. Data were collected using semi structured interview questions, then coded and analyzed following Creswell's approach. This analysis identified six themes: (a) lack of consistency, (b) faculty and staff clinical expectations of students, (c) barriers to clinical education, (d) faculty and staff differences in educational definitions, (e) faculty and staff comfort level with students, and (f) resources needed for clinical education. Learning how faculty and staff nurses assess student nurses' ability to demonstrate effective clinical reasoning and critical thinking skills can positively impact social change in nursing education on the local and state level by informing best practice in how critical thinking and clinical reasoning are taught and assessed in nursing education. This facilitates graduating nurses who are prepared to deliver patient care that affect positive outcomes.