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Nursing intuition: a valid form of knowledge

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An understanding of the nature and development of nursing intuition can help nurse educators foster it in young nurses and give clinicians more confidence in this aspect of their knowledge, allowing them to respond with greater assurance to their intuitions. In this paper, accounts from philosophy and neurophysiology are used to argue that intuition, specifically nursing intuition, is a valid form of knowledge. The paper argues that nursing intuition, a kind of practical intuition, is composed of four distinct aspects that include: (1) embodied knowledge rather like that knowledge we have when we have learned to ride a bicycle; (2) well‐trained sensory perceptions attentive to subtle details of complex, often rapidly changing situations; (3) a significant store of pertinent conceptual knowledge; and (4) a history of habitual actions intentionally directed towards achieving the best outcomes for our patients. Contemporary neurophysiology research strongly suggests that human persons experience other persons such that they directly understand the meaning of a variety of different human actions, intentions, emotions, and sensations in immediate, non‐reflective, and non‐conceptual perceptions. This research is supported by the philosophical theories of Jacques Maritain and Yves R. Simon found in their accounts of practical knowledge. Together, these accounts offer us a rich view of the reality of nursing intuition that helps us understand why we find intuitive actions in some but not all nurses and gives us some specific information about how to develop intuition in young nurses. Finally, this research shows us a path for further research.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor, Department of Philosophy, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, MO, USA

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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