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  1. Section Editor(s): Laskowski-Jones, Linda MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN

Article Content

I've come to believe that wisdom is fundamentally connected to the quality of the questions that we ask. If our questions are superficial, then so will be our understanding. Even worse is not asking any questions and taking situations or issues purely at face value. The tendency then is to jump to conclusions. The words and actions that follow in either case might very well be inadequate, off-base, or just plain wrong.

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There's danger in making assumptions and using only a personal mental model as the framework to evaluate situations and plan actions. This sort of thinking is rampant whenever biases exist and serves as a barrier to informed understanding. Whenever you're left thinking, "that's not what happened" or "they just don't get it" in response to someone's allegations or proposed strategies, it's a good bet that the right questions weren't asked before conclusions were drawn.


On a deeper level, asking the right questions is vital to conducting meaningful research, cultivating a culture of safety, planning the work necessary to improve healthcare outcomes, and fostering ongoing professional development and collaboration. The exercise of continuing to ask the question "why?" can take us beyond individuals and practice settings into the systems that make up the healthcare delivery infrastructure and help us deal with the current limitations of resources, science, and technology. This type of rich exploration underlies the root cause analysis process whenever a significant untoward event occurs. Quite frankly, though we tend to focus on what went wrong, we should also selectively study what went right, so we can advance our understanding and replicate crucial success factors.


As nurses, we need to promote a spirit of inquiry. Developing inquiry as a core competency can enable higher levels of professional engagement and expertise, generate new knowledge, and foster a better ability to discern patient needs and circumstances. It can also help us improve the overall quality of workplace communication, collaboration, and operations.


Nonjudgmental, sensitive inquiry allows us to gain clarity around interpersonal dynamics, become more empathetic, and even deliver a more compelling case for change. Asking the right questions is the first step to understanding-being inquisitive is the key. Otherwise, the real truth underlying effective strategies and actions just might remain undiscovered.


Until next time,


Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN

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Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2016 Vice President: Emergency & Trauma Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.