"See Everything, Hear What is Not Being Said": A Phenomenological Investigation of Intuition in Novice Registered Nurses Practice

Open Access
Ruth-Sahd, Lisa Anne
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 20, 2004
Committee Members:
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair
  • Edward W Taylor, Committee Member
  • Helen Margaret Hendy, Committee Member
  • Holly L Angelique, Committee Member
  • Ian E Baptiste, Committee Member
  • Intuition
  • Novice Registered Nurses
  • Phenomenology
  • Ways of Knowing
ABSTRACT Knowing is multifaceted and encompasses several different ways to process information. Ways of knowing that lay outside of the rational domain such as intuitive, spiritual, emotional, tacit, and unconscious knowing, have traditionally been ignored and silenced in the traditional obsession with objective, positivistic, and rationalistic knowing. In the field of nursing, it is recognized that in practice expert nurses use many different sources of knowledge too gain a holistic perspective of their patient situation, to guide their decision-making and inform patient care. Inclusion of novice nurses in previous research on intuition has been very limited. Therefore, the primary purpose of this interpretive Heideggarian phenomenological study was to discover the meaning of intuitive knowing to novice registered nurses. Secondly, it was intended to identify how the use of intuitive knowing impacts their practice. Sixteen nurses, twelve females and four males representing a variety of clinical specialties were interviewed. Cognitive learning theory and Women’s Ways of Knowing guided this theory theoretically. The methods of data collection were in-depth interviews using a semi-structured interview guide, as well as documents and artifacts. The interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. When analyzing the data, a constant comparative technique was utilized. The findings of this study revealed that these novice nurses defined intuition as being a “gut feeling” and identified multiple sources of intuition. They contextualized intuition based on previous life and job experiences and were influenced by intuitive mentors. When accessing intuition the novice nurses felt this was dependent on their self-trust, whether or not they trusted their colleagues and patients, their ability to reposition themselves in time and space to connect with their patients and lastly, patient variables. Outcomes of using intuition in practice were noted to be that it guided their decision-making, enhanced holistic patient care, influenced their navigating around and between professional relationships and enhanced their ability to deal with limited hospital and human resources. Lastly, the novice nurses shared that the culture of nursing education and practice continues to reify the medical model and give mixed messages regarding accepted ways of knowing. Many ways the novice nurses dealt with and unlearned fear associated with nonrational ways of knowing as well as the desire to find a balance among intuition, science and other ways of knowing were also shared. Based on these findings that emerged, implications for nursing education and practice are presented.