Nursing experience and preference for intuition in decision making

Jean E. Pretz, Elizabethtown College
Victoria N. Folse, Illinois Wesleyan University


This article examines the relationship between domain-specific and domain-general intuition among practicing nurses and student nurses to determine the role of intuition in nurses' decision making. Background. Measures of nursing intuition have not been compared with one another or to measures of general preference for intuition in the psychological literature. Prior research has shown that experienced nurses rely on intuition in clinical judgement, but the various aspects of intuition associated with experience have not been fully explored. Design. A correlational design was used to examine the factor structures and interrelationships of self-reported measures of intuition, as well as their relationship to experience. Method. A web-based survey was given to 175 practicing nurses and student nurses in the fall of 2007 using measures of intuition from the nursing and psychological literatures. Quantitative analyses employed descriptive and inferential statistics. Results. Measures of preference for intuition were combined, resulting in the identification of two independent aspects of nursing intuition uniquely related to general intuition and nursing experience. Results revealed that preference for intuition in nursing was not solely due to general preference for intuition and that use of nursing intuition increased with experience. Conclusion. These results strengthen the knowledge base of decision making in clinical practice by examining differences in preference for use of intuition among nurses. Further interdisciplinary collaboration is recommended. Relevance to clinical practice. Understanding the use of intuition in clinical judgement will promote professional practice and favourable patient outcomes. If experience simply leads to increased self-confidence and preference for the use of intuition, this may not actually be related to accuracy in judgement. However, if experience provides valuable information on associations between patient symptoms and outcomes, then the use of intuition in clinical practice should be encouraged. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.