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Problem Solving in Nursing: Strategies for Your Staff

4 min readSeptember, 15 2023

Problem solving is in a nurse manager’s DNA. As leaders, nurse managers solve problems every day on an individual level and with their teams. Effective leaders find innovative solutions to problems and encourage their staff to nurture their own critical thinking skills and see problems as opportunities rather than obstacles.

Health care constantly evolves, so problem solving and ingenuity are skills often used out of necessity. Tackling a problem requires considering multiple options to develop a solution. Problem solving in nursing requires a solid strategy.

Nurse problem solving

Nurse managers face challenges ranging from patient care matters to maintaining staff satisfaction. Encourage your staff to develop problem-solving nursing skills to cultivate new methods of improving patient care and to promote nurse-led innovation.

Critical thinking skills are fostered throughout a nurse’s education, training, and career. These skills help nurses make informed decisions based on facts, data, and evidence to determine the best solution to a problem.

Problem-Solving Examples in Nursing

To solve a problem, begin by identifying it. Then analyze the problem, formulate possible solutions, and determine the best course of action. Remind staff that nurses have been solving problems since Florence Nightingale invented the nurse call system.

Nurses can implement the original nursing process to guide patient care for problem solving in nursing. These steps include:

  • Assessment. Use critical thinking skills to brainstorm and gather information.
  • Diagnosis. Identify the problem and any triggers or obstacles.
  • Planning. Collaborate to formulate the desired outcome based on proven methods and resources.
  • Implementation. Carry out the actions identified to resolve the problem.
  • Evaluation. Reflect on the results and determine if the issue was resolved.

How to Develop Problem-Solving Strategies

Staff look to nurse managers to solve a problem, even when there’s not always an obvious solution. Leaders focused on problem solving encourage their team to work collaboratively to find an answer. Core leadership skills are a good way to nurture a health care environment that supports sharing concerns and innovation.

Here are some essentials for building a culture of innovation that encourages problem solving:

  • Present problems as opportunities instead of obstacles.
  • Strive to be a positive role model. Support creative thinking and staff collaboration.
  • Encourage feedback and embrace new ideas.
  • Respect staff knowledge and abilities.
  • Match competencies with specific needs and inspire effective decision-making.
  • Offer opportunities for continual learning and career growth.
  • Promote research and analysis opportunities.
  • Provide support and necessary resources.
  • Recognize contributions and reward efforts.

A group of people in scrubs looking at sticky notes

Embrace Innovation to Find Solutions

Try this exercise:

Consider an ongoing departmental issue and encourage everyone to participate in brainstorming a solution. The team will:

  1. Define the problem, including triggers or obstacles.
  2. Determine methods that worked in the past to resolve similar issues.
  3. Explore innovative solutions.
  4. Develop a plan to implement a solution and monitor and evaluate results.

Problems arise unexpectedly in the fast-paced health care environment. Nurses must be able to react using critical thinking and quick decision-making skills to implement practical solutions. By employing problem-solving strategies, nurse leaders and their staff can improve patient outcomes and refine their nursing skills.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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