Explicating Benner’s concept of expert practice: intuition in emergency nursing


J. Lyneham: e-mail: Joy.Lyneham@med.monash.edu.au


Title. Explicating Benner’s concept of expert practice: intuition in emergency nursing.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study exploring the experience of intuition in emergency nursing in relation to Benner’s fifth stage of practice development, ‘the expert practitioner.’

Background.  Expert nurses anecdotally report actions and thoughts that present in their consciousness and have an impact on the care given. Benner used the term ‘intuition’ for the fifth stage of practice development. However, Paley has criticized Benner’s model for its lack of clarity about the nature of an expert practitioner. This criticism is further justified by Benner’s inadequate explanation of expert.

Method.  A hermeneutic phenomenological study was conducted using van Manen’s approach and a Gadamerian analysis. Fourteen expert emergency nurses in Australia were interviewed between January 2000 and December 2003.

Findings.  The analysis resulted in the reconstruction of Benner’s expert stage into three distinct phases: cognitive intuition, where assessment is processed subconsciously and can be rationalized in hindsight; transitional intuition, where a physical sensation and other behaviours enter the nurse’s awareness; and embodied intuition, when the nurse trusts the intuitive thoughts.

Conclusion.  The findings validate the use of intuitive decision-making as a construct in explaining expert clinical decision-making practices. The validity of intuitive practice should be recognized. It is essential to recognize the conditions that support practice development, and in the prenovice stage (during their university course) factors such as reflection, research (in its broadest sense) and clinical curiosity should be fostered.