Reaching the fires, he saw furnaces situated around a coal mine. He had no choice but to make a guess as to which house he would approach. He knocked on a door, excusing his disheveled clothing by saying he had been in an accident. He was admitted by a man who held a revolver and seemed obviously skeptical about his story. He felt compelled to tell the truth.
My companion rose from the table slowly and locked the door. After this act, which struck me as unpromising, and was certainly ambiguous, he advanced upon me and suddenly held out his hand.
“Thank God you have come here! It is the only house for twenty miles where you would not have been handed over. But we are all British here and we will see you through.” (Inglis 1989)
His host hid him in the mine until they could smuggle him to safety.
These sorts of stories are typical of intuitive awareness. Guided by an inner knowing that is not reasoned, but seems to arise from a deep source that carries its own certainty, people find that they know information which is of great help to them – particularly in times of need.
Intuition in medicine and nursing
Many doctors, nurses, and various therapists have told me of clinical “hunches” that proved extremely valuable, sometimes even lifesaving, to people in their care. The following is a story I have heard in many variations.
Doctor Sam, on his way home after a long day’s work, had a hunch he ought to stop by and see how 68 year-old Miss Jennifer was doing. He hadn’t thought of her in several months, since her last annual checkup, when he had found her to be suffering much less from her arthritis. Sam struggled against the hunch, thinking of his wife and children waiting for him to arrive for dinner, but it simply would not be dismissed. Sighing, and preparing in his mind the possible excuses he might give his family for being late yet again from work, he turned up Miss Jennifer’s street and rang the bell of her apartment. There was no answer, but the door was not locked and opened when he turned the knob. Miss Jennifer was lying on the floor, unconscious. A quick examination suggested she had had a stroke, and a call to 911 brought an ambulance in time to rush her to the hospital, where she fortunately recovered after several weeks.
More than one nurse has told me of an inner urge to stop by the room of a patient who was recovering without apparent complication from surgery – to find that patient in shock from internal hemorrhage (or with other urgent problems), just in time to call the crash team and save his or her life. Doctors have told me how they sometimes intuit that a person has a tumor, a metabolic problem, or some other disorder that showed no outward symptom, which is confirmed on subsequent laboratory exams. Some doctors are so gifted that they regularly diagnose their patients’ problems intuitively. They reluctantly order lab tests – for medicolegal reasons as well as to avoid criticism or censure from their colleagues and supervisors. Some are able to identify intuitively medications or other treatments that will help.
Medical and nursing intuition research
Nurses have been discussing and exploring intuition for the past 25 years, acknowledging that this is a valid modality for clinical assessments and decision-making.
Nursing definitions have focused on various facets of intuition, witnessed by a range of conceptualizations:
- skillful performance of experts
- “direct apprehension of a situation based upon a background of similar and dissimilar situations and embodied intelligence or skill”
- a deep connection between the nurse and the client
- “knowledge without rationale”
- “lacking underlying conscious processes and as not being able to be explained in a tangible manner”
- “an immediate perception of truth, which is self-evident and thus in no need of justification”