Using Your Intuition

Have you ever felt concerned about your patient before any notable trends are detected, and it turns out your feeling was correct? Have you ever had an instinctual feeling, knowing something without being able to explain how you knew it? Or what about the gut feeling you get when something doesn’t seem right inside your patient’s room. Perhaps you feel a vibe when you walk into your unit at the start of your shift.

These are examples of Intuition or Inner Knowingness.

Intuition is “knowing” something without being able to explain how you consciously came to that conclusion. Intuition is useful, archived data and memories that your brain organizes into patterns for later use. As you gain knowledge and experience, your brain adds to the patterns, creating long-term memories, so that when you see or feel a tiny piece of the pattern detail you immediately recognize the full pattern in a flash of Intuition. Another example of Intuition dates back to our ancestors, women relied on intuition and instincts to tune into their children’s needs to ensure their survival. This explains why today, women have an edge when it comes to using their Intuition!

Using your intuition can be an important step in critical thinking, planning nursing interventions or helpful in preventing negative outcomes.

Using the Nursing Process, I’ve organized my tips into 5 steps to help you get in touch with your Intuition so you are able to use it in your nursing practice (or daily life).

Assessment: Trust Your Instincts. It may be hard to listen to or trust a feeling that you don’t fully understand. In retrospect, that instinctual feeling is usually right. By trusting your instincts, you tap into subconscious data that you may not remember on the conscious level, such as body language or energetic information. Even though you can’t articulate the feeling, it is valid. When you feel a spark of intuition, take a moment to assess the feeling or thought that comes with it. Note any subtle memories you may have with this spark of intuition, you can use this assessment of your instincts to plan your nursing care.

Diagnosis: The Gut Feeling. Often times when you “know” a situation is wrong you get discomfort in your belly, that is why they call it a “gut feeling.” Go with this feeling, it’s telling you something may be wrong. Go ahead and give your gut feeling a diagnosis. What is the big picture for your patient? It could be something like Energy Field Disturbance or Ineffective Coping. There are plenty of nursing diagnosis that can help explain your gut feeling. Never be afraid to mention to a fellow nurse or doctor that your gut is telling you something is not quite right.

You will often hear a nurse say, “my gut tells me this patient isn’t going to tolerate this.” This is the feeling I most often get when caring for my patients at the bedside. When I get this feeling, I look deeper into the picture of what’s going on with my patient as well as adjust alarm parameters and increase my observation.

Planning: Clear Your Mind. Clearing your mind of repetitive thoughts or worries will make it easier to listen your Intuition. At the bedside, a quick and simple way to clear your mind is to take 3 slow and long breaths, matching the length of the inhale with the length of the exhale. Often times I will do this while I am washing my hands before or after patient care or when feeling rushed. Then I can put the pieces of intuition together to formulate my plan. Review trends, past medical history and current interventions to see how they fit into what your Intuition is telling you to help you plan your next nursing interventions.

Note: To practice tuning into your intuition at home, find a meditative technique you are comfortable with and start practicing by sitting quietly and asking yourself a question. Listen to the first answer that comes to mind, that is your Intuition helping you find the answer. Also, exercise your brain. Intuition is drawn from the right side of your brain, which also controls nonverbal, holistic thought and expression. The more tuned up your right brain is, the better you can hear your Intuition. Exercise your right brain with activities like dancing, painting or coloring, practicing guided imagery, brainstorming, journaling…simply be creative.

Intervention: Take Action. By following the first 3 steps, you are now ready to act. What is your desired outcome? Take the necessary steps to carry out your next interventions to meet that outcome. In my personal experience, my intuition is 99% accurate each time. Just be sure that your nursing interventions are safe and you are following your hospital’s Standards of Practice and you are acting within your state’s Nursing Scope of Practice.

Evaluation: Keep Record. Make personal notes on how using your intuition to provide nursing care impacted your shift and patient outcomes. Every time you use your Intuition to make a decision about patient care, write it down. You may choose to write it down in an Intuition Journal using statements like “I have a feeling…” or “My intuition tells me…” Make note of any sensations associated with your intuition like discomfort, visions, emotions or feelings. Look back in your journal to see often you are correct to help you learn more about how to recognize and follow your intuition.

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