A Nurses Intuition


nurses-intuition.jpgOn my way home after visiting a patient today I had one of those ” gut” feelings about a situation  that was going on with him.  A nurses intuition is important and a part of critical thinking ability. We are knowledgeable about nursing and able to immediately and intuitively identify the needs and demands of a given situation.

Many good nurses know when to trust their instincts over the noise of the environment around them.  Most good doctors will tell you they listen to a nurse’s intuition when something is wrong. Many doctors will in fact ask a nurse “what do you think”?

As a nurse we generally have good people skills.  We have the ability to read others and listen to our intuition. An example might be when we can discern between someone who is drug seeking as opposed to is truly in pain.  The nursing “sixth sense” is that moment when your gut gets those butterflies and you “just know” when things don’t add up. The strength of our intuition often urges us to do something more for the patient.

Few research studies have been done on healthcare professionals’ use of intuition.

What does the research show?

    • One study focused on registered nurses and their understanding of intuition and their perceptions of its use.
    • Nurses with greater expertise and experience are more likely to use intuition to make decisions or evaluate patient’s conditions.
    • The nature of intuition prevents agreement on its precise definition and little research evidence to support its existence.
    • The conclusion was that intuition in the nursing setting is not a mystical power, but part of the nurses’ analysis and response.

 In general, most health care professionals are reluctant to discuss intuition for good reason.  Intuition is not considered a legitimate part of evaluation and decision making process.  Read more about how healthcare professionals use intuition at healthcare use of sixth sense.

Reporting intuition

When we as nurses report our intuitions, subjective feelings are often at odds with the objective signs and symptoms. Nurses have made great strides in recognizing, analyzing and teaching concepts related to logical, rational decision-making. It is imperative, however, also to recognize and teach the concepts related to the intuitive and precognitive components of making decisions in clinical practice.

I’m sure this “instinct” has been referenced many times during most nursing training.   As much as touch, smell and sound, I learned to tap into my  instinct to help connect the dots.

“Does the patient look sick?” Ask any nurse, in any area of nursing, and they understand this statement. You just know when something is off. I have known physicians who state they value this skill more and more each time it is used. When a nurse gets the sense that “something is not right” from a patient, the physician has learned to take it seriously.

I think all nurses eventually possess this skill. The more confident you are in your nursing skills the more you trust your instincts. I don’t know how we get it or why but I know I have had it for years. The more experienced nurse will definitely have a sharper sixth sense or instinct, but even a new nurse has the ability to “know” when something is not right.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.