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Keywords:

  • intuition;
  • expertise;
  • perception;
  • ecological psychology;
  • expertise;
  • information;
  • nursing science;
  • nursing art;
  • theory;
  • measurement

Informational basis for expert intuition

Aim. Intuition has been cited as an integral part of nursing clinical expertise. Responding to the recent scholarly debate over the status of expert nursing intuition as part of the art or science of nursing, this article proposes an alternative view that may provide an informational basis for what has been described phenomenologically as intuition.

Rationale. Two reasons for the dispute over the status of nursing intuition as `art' or `science' are proposed: The first is methodological. The second relates to intuition's close link with perception and underlying assumptions about perception. By examining intuition through an ecological psychology framework, the problem takes on a different character, one that is no longer focused solely on the expert's cognitive (or perceptual) processes, but also on the information provided by the patient and the context of care.

Conclusions. This perspective has several implications for nursing. By investigating information sources (i.e. higher order variables or constraints) in the nurse-patient encounter, the problem of intuition may be clarified, and perhaps simplified. We may find that what nurse researchers have called `intuition' is what Gibson (1966, 1986) termed `direct perception.' Intuition as direct perception is information-based and lawful. Finally, although some aspects of intuition may be hard-wired through evolution, intuition as direct perception can be developed through education and extensive, deliberate practice with appropriate exemplars. Characterized as direct perception, intuition is an observable, lawful phenomenon that is measurable, potentially teachable, and appropriately part of nursing science.