Decision-making in Nursing Research and Practice—Application of the Cognitive Continuum Theory: A Meta-Aggregative Systematic Review

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Aim To explore how the Cognitive Continuum Theory has been used in qualitative nursing research and to what extent it has been integrated in the research process using the Qualitative Network for Theory Use and Methodology (QUANTUM).

Background Theory, research and nursing are intrinsically linked, as are decision-making and nursing practice. With increasing pressure on nurses to improve patient outcomes, systematic knowledge regarding decision-making is critical and urgent.

Design A meta-aggregative systematic review.

Methods Databases CINAHL, Medline, PsycINFO, Embase and PubMed were searched from inception until May 2022 for peer-reviewed research published in English.

Seven studies were included and assessed for methodological quality using the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist for qualitative research. A meta-aggregative synthesis was conducted using Joanna Briggs methodology. The QUANTUM typology was used to evaluate the visibility of the Cognitive Continuum Theory in the research process.

Results The review identified five synthesised findings, namely: 1. the decision-making capacity of the individual nurse, 2. nurses’ level of experience, 3. availability of decision support tools, 4. the availability of resources and 5. access to senior staff and peers. Only two of seven studies rigorously applied the theory. The included studies were mainly descriptive-exploratory in nature.

Conclusion The transferability of the Cognitive Continuum Theory was demonstrated; however, evolution or critique was absent. A gap in the provision of a patient-centric approach to decision-making was identified. Education, support and research is needed to assist decision-making.

A new Person-Centred Nursing Model of the Cognitive Continuum Theory has been proposed to guide future research in clinical decision-making.

Relevance to Clinical Practice Nurses make numerous decisions every day that directly impact patient care, therefore development and testing of new theories, modification and revision of older theories to reflect advances in knowledge and technology in contemporary health care are essential.

Copyright © 2023 The Authors.
cognitive continuum theory, meta-aggregative systematic review, nurse decision-making, nursing informatics, nursing theory, patient outcomes, patient-centric approach, qualitative research, quantum typology, revised theory

O’Connor, T., Gibson, J., Lewis, J., Strickland, K., & Paterson, C. (2023). Decision-making in nursing research and practice—Application of the cognitive continuum theory: A meta-aggregative systematic review. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 32 (23-24), 7979-7995.

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