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Int J Nurs Stud. 2011 Jul;48(7):881-93. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2010.12.005. Epub 2011 Jan 15.

Do educational interventions improve nurses' clinical decision making and judgement? A systematic review.

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Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom.



Despite the growing popularity of decision making in nursing curricula, the effectiveness of educational interventions to improve nursing judgement and decision making is unknown. We sought to synthesise and summarise the comparative evidence for educational interventions to improve nursing judgements and clinical decisions.


A systematic review.


Electronic databases: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, CINAHL and PsycINFO, Social Sciences Citation Index, OpenSIGLE conference proceedings and hand searching nursing journals.


Studies published since 1960, reporting any educational intervention that aimed to improve nurses' clinical judgements or decision making were included. Studies were assessed for relevance and quality. Data extracted included study design; educational setting; the nature of participants; whether the study was concerned with the clinical application of skills or the application of theory; the type of decision targeted by the intervention (e.g. diagnostic reasoning) and whether the evaluation of the intervention focused on efficacy or effectiveness. A narrative approach to study synthesis was used due to heterogeneity in interventions, study samples, outcomes and settings and incomplete reporting of effect sizes.


From 5262 initial citations 24 studies were included in the review. A variety of educational approaches were reported. Study quality and content reporting was generally poor. Pedagogical theories were widely used but use of decision theory (with the exception of subjective expected utility theory implicit in decision analysis) was rare. The effectiveness and efficacy of interventions was mixed.


Educational interventions to improve nurses' judgements and decisions are complex and the evidence from comparative studies does little to reduce the uncertainty about 'what works'. Nurse educators need to pay attention to decision, as well as pedagogical, theory in the design of interventions. Study design and reporting requires improvement to maximise the information contained in reports of educational interventions.

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